Don’t judge a book by its cover they say, take your time and look within, don’t base any opinions on an initial glimpse at nothing more than the surface. Absolutely, we totally agree, but sometimes, sometimes, one look is all it takes. That’s kind of what happened with us and Courtly Love. One look at their press shot (small version above) and we had that tingle, we just knew these guys were going to be great. We could feel it in our bones, our water, our gut or whatever you want to call it, we were certain they would sound amazing. We weren’t wrong.
We first heard them at the back end of October thanks to Mr Von Pip, but with posts already planned and the great end of year list-o-mania in the works, we held back on posting until we had more time to write and more time to spend with their fantastic bluesy, guitar driven psychedelic sounds. We’re glad we did, the three tracks of this East London based quintet of Johnny, Layla, Ben, Jules and Jake have been our yuletide listens; Christmas never sounded so chic.
They are named after the medieval concept of chivalry, the secret expressions of love between members of the nobility and there is something almost voyeuristic and illicit about their sound which is laced with excitement and danger. Glamorous but a little bit dark with it, pulse quickening as if anyone could discover you and your secret at any second. All while looking effortlessly cool of course, probably nonchalantly smoking Gauloises or something.
Courtly Love feel fully formed, no assembly required, they are up and ready to go and ready to blow your mind. They were probably born in black and white, wearing perfectly fitting vintage outfits and smouldering at the midwife as they were delivered. Man, we love this band. Is it wrong that we kind of want to be them?
The opening chords of “Mirage” will take you where you need to go, down the back stairs, through a nondescript door and into the kind of bar you only ever see in films. Part speakeasy, part dangerously hip establishment, and part the best bar you’ve ever been in. The band will be up on stage, looking cooler than anyone else in the room. All eyes on them as drinks are poured, drunk and refilled. Johnny and Layla swapping vocals as the jangle of guitar fill the room.
We should stop for a moment to mention the vocals actually, particularly Layla’s (though Johnny’s are really good too). There is a subtle power to her voice, a far reaching and disarmingly captivating power. And, as you’d expect, she sounds so fucking cool. Not Lana trying too hard sort of cool, it’s naturally cool and stylish, the more potent kind.
“Voodoo Girl” has an arid quality to it with strings that give off a heat haze from the dusty desert rocks of the crashing snare and cymbals. Vultures circle overhead as our heroes search for shelter from the blazing sun above.
It, like all of their songs thus far, just sounds so damn exciting. You can get lost in the whole thing, transported to another world, a world you won’t want to leave. The original meaning of Courtly Love has been described as “a love at once illicit and morally elevating” and that is just how they sound, illicit, thrilling, inspiring and enriching. Oh yes, of course, and really fucking cool.