I'll admit, I'm a terrible music blogger when it comes to new music. To catch my attention amidst the sea of PR e-mails in my inbox, I generally have to have some sort of pre-existing inclination towards a new band or project, which is probably why I usually stick to the covers beat. So it's a pretty rare set of circumstances when a press release will float through my mailbox and actually pique my attention enough to download the promo copy of the album, then actually listen to the whole thing . . . repeatedly . . . for 10 days straight. Such is the case with the self-titled debut from Codeine Velvet Club.
Codeine Velvet Club is a side project from Jon Lawler, lead singer/guitarist of The Fratellis, and Glasgow songstress Lou Hickey. The reason this particular e-mail happened to strike a chord with me was because I've been recently rediscovering The Fratellis' 2006 debut Costello Music and racking up the playcounts. The Fratellis also have penchant for covering T. Rex and have previously covered The White Stripes on the BBC, which obviously gives them brownie points in my books. I skimmed the e-mail and the phrase "jazz-noir, big-band duet" jumped out at me and decided to give it a try. Lo and behold, my new favourite album of the year.
The album emanates a 60s orchestral pop vibe complete with lush big band backing and retro boy/girl duets with perhaps a little more polish and a rock 'n roll edge. Lawler and Hickey (a real find!) smoothly trade off verses and sing gorgeous harmonies (particularly in the dreamy Nevada), though it's Hickey that really shines in her solo bits like Time or the rousing chorus of The Black Roses. The orchestral score was composed by Mick Cooke of Belle & Sebastian fame. During my first play through the albu I thought to myself that some of these have the feel of a Bond film, so perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise to find out later that it was part of Lawler's vision for Codeine Velvet Club to sound like "John Barry playing with a rock ‘n roll band”. The horn section even includes acclaimed trumpeter Derek Watkins who, get this, has played on EVERY James Bond theme including the classic "Wah WAH-WAH Wah's" on Goldfinger! More recently you've probably heard Watkins' trumpet solo that opens the 2004 film Chicago, a soundtrack I'm well acquainted with.
Codeine Velvet Club - Hollywood
Fortunately the track I'm cleared to stream is one of my favourites from the album. I'm seriously addicted to the whole disc, but some other standouts for me include The Black Roses, Like a Full Moon, Time, and Vanity Kills, the track that initially spurred on the collaboration between Lawler and Hickey (they had originally teamed up to do a song for her solo album). I haven't even mentioned that the closing number is a great cover of The Stone Roses' I Am the Resurrection, which you can fortunately download for free from the members section of their official website (requires registration). I barely even want to think about it this far in advance, but I know Codeine Velvet Club will be guaranteed a spot in my next year-end review.
Me blathering on about tracks you can't hear doesn't do you much good, so you can check some of the tunes out for yourself on their myspace or official youtube channel, which has some live versions and a couple music videos.
Album is out in North America April 6th!
Upcoming live dates for Codeine Velvet Club include a handful at SXSW and then some West Coast shows supporting Metric. Come to Vancouver soon!
3/17 The Parish (SXSW) Austin, TX
3/18 Austin Convention Center (SXSW) Austin, TX
3/19 Rusty Spurs (SXSW) Austin, TX
3/20 Cedar Street (SXSW) Austin, TX
3/21 Showbox SoDo (w/ Metric) Seattle WA
3/22 Roseland Theater (w/ Metric) Portland, OR
3/24 Fox Theater (w/Metric) Oakland, CA
3/26 Hollywood Palladium (w/ Metric) Los Angeles, CA
Can't leave without mentioning Lou Hickey's Twitter since she's gotta be the only Scottish singer who tweets about her love of hockey. Mind you, ice hockey does have some Scottish roots historically...