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July Talk – Touch

Tuesday 06th, September 2016 / 14:36
By Mike Dunn

july-talkSleepless Records/Universal

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.

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  • rrledford

    I agree that “Touch” is a rather standout 4/5 album, and one that it marks a clear transition in the band’s musical persona, shifting toward a more pop/disco sounding musical expression. While I like most of the new genes, that seem to have been studio engineered into the DNA of their evolving sound, as they have emerged with this ambitious 2nd album effort, I am somehow still left craving for a bigger fix of the harder edged elements that their prior, more raw, indie rockers style consistently delivered,
    This musically visceral, solid punch aspect of their sound may perhaps have become a little too bleach out, and faded while passing through the wash & spin cycles that emerge during an album’s studio production period.
    I can think of no better way to illustrate this than by tracing the history of the album’s cover song “Touch” (really two songs). Initially, during the conception and late fetal development stages of this “child-song,” when it could only be experienced within the creative womb of a July Talk live performance, the song only had a tentative name → “Sex Song.”
    I first herd “Sex Song” browsing Youtube for live recorded July talk performances. I stumbled upon the video of them from 2014 playing in a Hamburg, Germany record store (Michelle). [July Talk Live in Hamburg 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnqNTedD9VQ ], and @15:05 into the VID they play a song which Peter introduces with only the words “Let’s Dance. lets fuc_in’ dance” and Leah Fay then launches with the single word → “DANG.” Peter proceeds with the lines → “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours; and if you draw blood, that’s par for the course”
    WOW!
    So blown away by this song, that I immediately searched to see whether they had recorded it yet, but no luck. So I assumed It must be a song queued up for their next album, or perhaps even a cover. Over time I learned that they sometimes called this song “Sex Song,” and other times “Touch.”
    I was so excited when I heard that the new album was to be titled “Touch” and that my fav J-T song would finally be recorded. So when the album finally dropped on 9/9/16 to my amazement the closing song “Touch,” was NO LONGER “Sex Song.” Instead a fraternal twin song had suddenly matured inside the J-T creative womb, and had now ended up gestating and being delivered AHEAD of my favorite “Sex Song ” baby.
    The thing about fraternal twins is that they are very different creatures. We can hear the new sounding personality of the fresh “Touch” song-child, that is now recorded, but Will “Sex Song” wind up being a stillbirth song-baby, or will it just be a delayed delivery song-baby? Only time will tell. In the interim, I can still pull out my stethoscope and listen in on the heartbeat sound of what I hope is a still gestating “Sex Song” baby at the above Youtube LINK.
    I suggest you also give “Sex Song” a listen too, and then tell me with which of these two fraternal twin song-babies would you rather dance wildly?
    As for the rest of the album. Lola + Joseph is my favorite song. Overall, I think with some songs, there is too much “repetition looping” of the lyrics and the music. When I look at the opening lyric from “Sex Song” that wasn’t replicated in “Touch” → “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours; and if you draw blood, that’s par for the course” — and I ask myself how could there not have been a space in the song “Touch” to include this amazingly edgy “Sex Song” lyric?
    Was it somehow deemed not in sync with the directional theme of this new album? If so, then I hope that when their 3rd comes out reviewers characterize it as being more of a “returning to their roots” effort.
    The “Touch” album should scratch you back very nicely, but it is not quite there when it comes to drawing blood”