Thursday, October 28, 2021

LARKINS Hurt Your Heart in the Best Possible Way With Debut Album ‘JCOY’

Having been touted as a band that could fill massive venues as early as 2016, Larkins are finally set to take a huge step towards fulfilling that potential with their debut record ‘JCOY’

On the back of an already-impressive touring record including selling out Manchester’s 2,000 capacity Albert Hall in 2019 and completing a 7,000 ticket post-lockdown UK tour, this half-hour-long collection of songs from Josh Noble, Dom Want, Henry Beach and Joe Gaskell is sure to send the four-piece from Glossop into the indie stratosphere with its perfect marriage of heartfelt lyrics and danceable, upbeat bangers.

Larkins begin their debut with the single that properly established them on the global indie scene, ‘Are We Having Any Fun Yet?’. The record swells into existence with a pulsing synth that underpins the entire song, before frontman Noble’s voice enters gently to float on top. There’s a childlike innocence to the chorus as it repeats the song title, despite Noble’s verse lyrics describing a world deeply affected by the weight of current events (“He walks home from a second job / Late rent, two kids, but he’s doin’ it, he’s doin’ it for love … / … She sleeps alone in a king size bed / They said she needs two pills as a way to sort her head out”) – this contrast between light music and direct, dark lyrics is present throughout the album. The pulse breaks only right before the final anthemic chorus, as Noble cries “You’ll be alright”, perfectly closing the album’s opener with a motivational call to their listenership following an extremely tough couple of years.  

Recently released single ‘Digital Love’ follows similarly with a slightly pacier keyboard rhythm, as Noble sings of his dream of an unrequited love. Noble’s vocals are extremely versatile and effective here, moving from a whispered first verse deep in that dream, before waking up into a pained chorus as he realises it was just his sleeping imagination. Gaskell’s powerful drumming here builds up on this emotion well as the song expands over the next verse and chorus, before it breaks back down to another affecting Noble whisper accompanied only by that ever-present keyboard beat.  

These slow-burning openers build the album up compellingly to ‘No Life’, the first outright danceable banger of the record. Again, the pairing of contrasting lyrics and music is present and effectual here, with euphoric guitar lines from Want and locked-in grooves from Gaskell and bassist Beach creating a disco-esque accompaniment to Noble’s deeply desperate lyrics about loneliness in a relationship. This contrast is perhaps most apparent in the chorus, as its first section – “I’ve got no life when you’re not around / It’s not the same when you’re out of town” – feels like a cutesy lyric about missing a significant other. Comparatively, the second section’s “I’ve got no life when you’re not around / I crash my car, are you happy now?” is certainly a dark turn painting Noble’s painful longing for his partner to see him rather directly and emphatically.  

Sandwiched between two indie-pop toe-tappers comes ‘snwflk (interlude)’. While labelled an interlude, ‘snwflk’ is an affecting track in its own right, with Noble beginning the tune solo with an acoustic guitar, before the band comes in with sweeping distorted guitar lines to accompany Noble’s now-manipulated howled vocals. The overall vibe of this track – in particular those fuzzy guitars – is reminiscent of Kanye West’s ‘Ghost Town’, another emotionally powerful cut that Larkins are able to match with a mere ‘interlude’.   

‘This Is Gonna Hurt’ forms the other half of this album’s central highlight. Larkins’ light/dark contrast is at its most enjoyable here, as Noble sings of a doomed relationship over an outright piece of dance music from the band. In particular, the 8-bit sounding chords that maintain the song’s bounce as they alone accompany Noble in the chorus are energetic and satisfying, and the reprise of ‘snwflk’ in the track’s bridge has extra weight lent to it following its original outing.  

‘if + when’ sees Larkins and Noble at their most emotionally bare, with lyrics detailing the frontman’s former failings as a friend over a brooding instrumental that actually matches the lyrical content in feeling. This track is placed perfectly on the record, contrasting the energy of ‘This Is Gonna Hurt’ and allowing the album to flow well. The previous track’s 8-bit vibe rears its head in the glitchy accompaniment to the chorus, but this complements rather than overpowers the soul-stirring emotion poured into this track.  

‘hurt your heart’ picks the energy back up, starting as a gentle head-nodder before becoming a call-and-response groover with the chorus. A song about the emotional impact of an unfaithful partner should not feel this happy and danceable, but as we’ve seen from Larkins on this record, they can make it work.  

‘over it’ closes the album in the same way it started in many ways, firstly with a constant synth pulse – this time in the form of a high-pitched skipping two-note pattern, continuing the 8-bit feel that the band made use of on the back-end of this album. The bridge’s lyrics – “Always felt like I’m too young for this / Too fuckin’ young for this” – feel like another call out to a disaffected generation in tough times, before the band reprise the chorus and end with an anthemic instrumental that fades out in much the same way ‘Are We Having Any Fun Yet?’ fades in, wrapping up the entire record very effectively.  

Manchester has always had a rich history of bands that make you want to cry and dance at the same time. Joy DivisionThe SmithsThe 1975 – with ‘JCOY’, Larkins can add themselves to that list, with their blend of direct and emotional lyricism, disco grooves, and 8-bit danceable rhythms.  


David Harrold  

Image: ‘JCOY’ Official Album Artwork  

1 comment:

  1. This article has convinced me to check out this band. More of the same please.


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