Released: September 2014
From Rush to Arcade Fire, Nickleback to Justin Bieber, Canada has brought us some varied music acts in both style and quality. Toronto band July Talk bring to the table another unique slice of Canadian musicianship, as they apply their own style and manner to the sounds of Jack White and The Black Keys alongside old ‘50s blues and rockabilly. Their self-titled debut album carries such sounds into 2014 with plenty of balls and a sense of humour, reinvigorating a genre of music that has survived for decades, and in the hands of acts like July Talk should endure for many more.
July Talk makes its presence known instantly with the rowdy and provocative opener The Garden, a track with rolling snares and lightly distorted rockabilly guitars that serve to finely complement the unique dual vocals of singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. His voice is gruff and aggressive, unsuited to his slender frame, hers wild and excitable with a hint of childish rebellion compounded by teasing seduction. “I ain’t gonna let him twist my wrist, I ain’t gonna let him kiss these lips” she wails, and you fully believe her, for despite Dreimanis’s commanding vocal efforts, it’s Fay’s voice that sounds like the boss of the band.
Carl Perkins rhythms and White Stripes grooves weave themselves into various tracks on the record, but July Talk are far from derivative, smashing up blues classics and rearranging the pieces the way they want them to be. Paper Girl’s bouncing 6/8 time signature adds a rockabilly edge to a very ‘00s indie sound, whilst Gentleman showcases a relieving lack of earnestness as Dreimanis sings “You call me a gentleman, but you’re easy” over dramatic stabbing power chords and minimalist drum work.
Uninvited sees Leah Fay’s strongest vocal performance; it’s a rousing rock ‘n’ roll garage track with a persistent piano lingering in the background behind fuzzy guitars. Popular tracks Guns + Ammunition and Summer Dress reinvent the catchy blues-inflected singles of Band of Skulls and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club as epic aural thunderstorms. Both songs would have been labelled modern classics if released by a more recognised band.
The duets throughout the LP are clearly the band’s standout feature, Fay’s cheeky nursery rhyme melodies contrasting with the anger and emotional depth of Dreimanis’ full-throttle performances. It must be noted, however, that the band as a whole works crisply in unison to present these finely polished snippets of blues-rock. The Los Campesinos! influenced Headsick sees a more traditional indie sound take over, allowing high tempo drums to flourish with the simplistic driving bass.
Let Her Know is another track highlighting the band’s strong textural qualities, the glossy synth recalling The Killers or Passion Pit. The bent strings and drawn out chords of closing track I’ve Rationed Well help to create the atmospheric sound of the desert in a tune that would fit right into a Breaking Bad episode.
A tour de force in how to refresh a genre that has stuck around in the musical landscape for over fifty years, the debut album from July Talk is an aggressive, assertive and irresistibly mischievous slice of 21st century blues-rock. Like Jerry Lee Lewis on steroids, it bashes its way through the speakers with killer riffs and fantastically indulgent drum fills, rounded off by the unique and completely polarised central vocal duo. This is raw, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll with a real spring in its step; a genre regenerated.