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Without blues, there would not be rock today as we know it. There are plenty of bands who combine the roots of rock with their modern flair - Alabama Shakes being a prime example. What's rarer to see than a blues rock band is a rock band with a tenor singer singing in that raspy blues and jazz tone that was the signature of Louis Armstrong.
That rare, if not unique combination can be found in Canadian rock n' roll outfit July Talk. They've just released their sophomore album Touch, and it begs the question as to why this band doesn't get more attention. Their sound is something truly special.
Going into Touch, you don't expect to her that raspy tenor powerfully leading the tracks. The beautiful thing about July Talk is their seamless combination of blues and rock. Kicking off with the groovy 'Picturing Love', the intro number really sets the pace for a rocking record. It starts in an understated manner, a strong drum beat followed by some keys. Suddenly, the magic of Peter Dreimanis' vocals kick in and you know something brilliant is ahead. Dreimanis' voice is powerful and bassy, yet is contrasted by the sweet and strong voice of Leah Fay throughout the record, providing for lots of color. The relationship between the two vocalists' voices becomes clearer in 'Beck + Call' where the two come together in a stunning manner.
Even though it's so easy to get lost in the voices, the instrumentals cannot be ignored. The aforementioned 'Beck + Call' is pure rock n' roll with its big guitars. Some songs exhibit a punkier attitude, such as 'So Sorry' towards the end of the record, booming with Leah Fay's challenging tone and the wild guitars. It's bridge is something else - the instrumental comes to a halt as Fay and Dreimanis sing under a palm muted guitar as the song builds back up to a giant explosion. 'Lola + Joseph' also has an absolutely immense instrumental, the brass section just as influential as its guitars. The deep brass really accent each chord with a definitive presence that you can't be indifferent to. It's so good. Softer moments are also present on the record - the pianos and smooth bass lead to dreamy strings and synths in 'Strange Habits' giving it a chilled back and ethereal vibe while still remaining memorable.
The best part of this album is definitely its vocals, but everything works together in a very amazing way. It's as if each element of the song is the support for another, in a form of musical symbiosis. The vocals are just like guitars, the higher register held onto by Fay while Dreimanis handles the low-end. The lyrics are something else, too. Single 'Push + Pull' expresses the duality of a volatile relationship, the chorus ethereally stating, "We're used to the night that leaves us unstable / We're used to the night, we take more than we're able / We're used to the night or whatever's on the table." There's also 'Jesus Said So', which is a huge bashing of modern culture. Through slamming words such as "White babies cry / On reality TV / Plastic surgery disaster / Inherit obesity" and the provocative imagery of "
The cops put men in cars / Drove them out into the snow / Find women's bodies in the rivers / But nobody seems to know", it really leaves a lot to wonder about.
The final track, the eponymous 'Touch' is a brilliant conclusion to the album. It's not an upfront track like a lot of the other big tracks were, but it instead builds into one wallowing crescendo of moody noise. The bluesy piano licks that repeat themselves from start to finish back the harmonies between Dreimanis and Fay, while the drums slowly build into the song's climax, bringing a thousand voices together for one big closure.
Touch is an album you can't really understand until you see it through. All you can tell is that it's something unique and strong. July Talk is only on their second album but sound like they've been together for decades, their sound so crisp and knowing. It's a musical astonishment. This band deserves more attention than their reputation for crazy live shows has garnered. They deserve worldwide fame
Favorite Tracks: Beck + Call, Lola + Joseph, Touch, Picturing Love
Least Favorite Track: Johnny + Mary
Rating: 86 / 100