By Joseph & David
For a few days now I've been promising myself a night of listening to music just for the hell of it. It's been a while (at least a week) since I delved through the collection to rediscover a forgotten gem, trawled the web to find something new, or indulged in a spot of nostalgia via a certain video-sharing website. So how did I end up repeatedly listening to a new EP by a Leeds band that I'd never heard of until an hour ago? I'm not entirely sure but it probably had something to do with the reflex of checking my updates from the lovely people at leedsmusicscene which kicked-in, as it does every day, as soon as I'd finished my day job. So here I sit, pen in hand (well, kind of), listening to something new.
A five song EP is a great way for a band to introduce their music to a new audience. Effectively it's a mini-album, a taster to show what they're about and for emerging acts - can point to where the music is going next. "Rise Up The Sun" embodies these elements perfectly and in little over twenty minutes you get to experience the very sound, spirit, scope and solidity at the heart of Joseph & David's music. I was impressed on all counts after one listen; the songs are so accessible and well-produced that I found myself enjoying each one more than the last and better still - each song was giving me something different to enjoy.
"I'm Here" is a warm opener with a simple guitar and heartfelt vocals that mature as strings, ukulele (?) and piano are eased-in. The crescendo driven by horns and drums is one of the freshest climaxes to a song I've heard this year, easily surpassing anything by more established acts and in turn blasting my expectations to pieces. I was surprised that Joseph & David's music had somehow passed me by but at the same time was left bursting with civic pride when I realised the boys were local. Writing a review about a well-known band from the States can sometimes feel more like writing a career update whereas a piece on a fledgling talent on my own doorstep definitely adds zeal to my work. (Work, really?)
Anyway, civic pride aside - back to the music....
"Borderline" has a wonderfully understated character. It's the "small is bigger" feel to the song through both the instrumentation and the lyrics that result in it effecting such beauty. The piano dances eloquently over the percussion and there's a restraint in the vocals which lasts until the final minute of the song where raw emotion literally explodes outwards. The control is blown away and the feeling conveyed in the last minute or so is perfectly uplifting and empowering. In contrast to the might of this outpouring I was then equally charmed by the contrasting accordion which then winds "Borderline" down to an end. A very nice touch.
"Sleepy Heart" begins with spritely piano and drifts naturally into a beautifully slow verse. "Wake up your sleepy heart" is a line that sees the songs heart stir and brassy trills add a playful dimension, whereas building drums transform the sound from balladry to something much bigger. I'll be honest, on first listen and until around 2 minutes in, I wasn't quite getting this one and then all of a sudden - the tune evolved and it all clicked into place.
"Falling Wood" is probably my choice pick on the EP and although there's in some ways a similar structure to "Borderline" - namely a gentle beauty overall and quiet beginnings that lead to something stunning and powerful - there's a shanty feel giving it a voice of its own. When I first heard the unison chorus of "Bring out your heavy burden, call off the hurts you hold in fear. Tell me how you feel, tell me how you feel my love" I was completely and utterly blown-away. Honestly. This is excellent stuff. Is this really a local band I've not heard of until now or established Americana exponents from across the pond with albums and albums under their belt?
"Rise up the sun" is the final song from the EP and while it might remind me of one of my favourite songs of the last ten years ("Postcards from Italy" by Beirut, since you asked) it's still its own soul beyond any musical hat-tips - intended or otherwise. The sing-a-long vocals are infectiously feel-good and the Gallic charm of the accordion combine to produce a great closing track. It's not as big a tune as others here but is still potent enough to require several repeat plays to catch everything that's going on. The strength of this as a closing song on the EP is definitely the more mature and reflective character to the music, though there's no less thought gone into this than the more full-blown moments of "Falling Wood" or "Borderlines".
It seems unfair to compare to the sound of Joseph & David to other artists because they come across as guys genuinely doing their own thing, the thing they love and to be frank - something they're damn good at. If you were looking for a bit of guidance though - if you've previously made room for Beirut, Devotchka or The Decemberists on your shelves - then there's a space left for this beautiful little collection of songs. I really hope this is the start of something special for the boys and can't wait to catch them live at Trinity Church for the EP launch on 19th December.