By Mike Dunn
July Talk’s Touch, the follow-up to their highly acclaimed 2012 debut, finds the band moving more fully toward the hooky dance pop that punctuated their first record, and eschewing the proto-blues punk that was a more defining characteristic of their earlier sound. The chemistry of vocalists Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay is as charming and heated as ever, like Nick Cave and Debbie Harry standing in traffic sharing a coffee and cigarette.
Kicking off with a sleek, closed hat four beat and not a ton of cymbals on “Picturing Love,” a Wurlitzer riff locking in with the rhythm section emphasizes the low end groove and puts the onus on the melodies of Fay and Dreimanis. This, and the two follow-up cuts, “Beck + Call”and “Now I Know” are sexy, taut dance floor rock n’ roll for the people that prefer the beats of a band over club disco pop. The big twist of Dreimanis’s ominous low-end Tom Waits carnival grit somehow provides soft landing for Fay’s brassy, playful hooks. The hurtling, tight pocket fuzz punk of “Johnny + Mary” comes in fast and hard, a late night fast drive with its exhorting hook: “Cheer up, little junkie, cheer up little fugitive, cheer up, we all know we all know we’re going down, cheer up, put your camera down.” Dreimanis’s vocals carry the fervency of a faith healer, high drama throughout, before “Strange Habit” finds him showing the vulnerability of an oncoming waking hangover, over a floating minor key groove before Fay and the strings come back with a harmony over a nice drone, a counterpoint to the movement through the chords. “Not goin’ through the motions,” croons Dreimanis, a near whisper in a siren of strings, synth, and steel to the end. The lead single, “Push + Pull”, and “Lola + Joseph” amp up the swagger over and over, with the rhythm section of Josh Warburton and Danny Miles locking down a snappy disco groove, the guitars of Dreimanis and Ian Docherty either bursting in the pocket or playing slinky riffs under the verse lines. “So Sorry” has a kinetic Bikini Kill feel, with Fay at full throat throughout, and her lines in “Jesus Said So” are a gentle narration of some coming apocalypse over layered harmonies, a close-to-Whitehorse chorus ending with eerie stories of found bodies in the snow. The title track closes the record with a hypnotic repeating guitar riff and bluesy piano chords, the most plaintive of lines weighing the distance of emotions, “Touch, I don’t want to give away too much,” building to an ecstatic release. The song’s only real drawback is its reference to being onstage, which, while being the actual experience of the artist, can be hard for audiences to relate to if they’ve never done the work themselves.
July Talk have put together a pretty wicked sophomore record that should see the band expand on the success of their previous work, while their smart and distinctive sound remains with its foot firmly on the accelerator.July Talk, Touch