This latest offering from UK collective Gabby Young & Other Animals
is aptly titled The Band Called Out For More
. It works because the band seems to have got its wish by distilling a host of influences into the heady mixture of retro and avant-garde served up here. Once more label-defying, the songs cross styles within styles from jazz to opera, cabaret to folk, with now and again a tilt of the hat towards a more mainstream sound.
The album’s packaging prepares you for something different. The disc is housed in a single piece of cardboard, shaped into an octagon, with cleverly interlocking folds on the reverse opening up like a water lily. The cover art is a kaleidoscope of jewels, flowers, butterflies, and golden trumpets with the singer’s striking red headed, porcelain face surveying the wonder like an eastern princess. The music’s not bad, either. The skittish opener “In Your Head” delivers a frenetic surge of big band gypsy swing continuing the flow of the band’s promising debut, We’re All In This Together. The energy here is as visual as it gets, conjuring up images of a fervent live performance.
This exuberant, fulsome sound returns in various guises several times, though there’s much that deviates from this good-time formula. “Goldfish Bowl” is a jaunty slice of soulful pop, the closest here to hit single territory. Stabbing piano, crisp drums, and rich brass accompany a vocal work out by Young on “Walk Away”, showcasing her impressive range and operatic higher register. Young’s skills in mixing musical styles and moods within a single song is shown to good effect on “Clay Heart” which begins with a mournful trumpet and ends with pure lounge jazz.
In her less flamboyant moments, Gabby Young’s songs are very much first person confessionals hinting at an inner lack of confidence slowly being healed. “I never taught you but you happen to be perfect for me” she sings on the touchingly honest “Male Version Of Me”. Rather than searching for a soul mate, you know she has found one and the joy of that simple truth informs much of the album. “Segment” provides another highlight; a simple song of love and loyalty which builds into an inspirational anthem lit by a repeated plea, “Save me a segment of your heart/ Just a small piece for me.”
Engaging, different, and mostly compelling, this is a record that shows real talent progressing.
Essential Tracks: “Goldfish Bowl”, “Segment”