words// zak thomas

If you’re looking for the antidote to the daily tedium of commercial industry pop, I think I’ve found it in Joyshop. Their latest album ‘Fables’, out on the 7th January, is a reminder of how music should be. No autotune or special effects are required, just a platform to showcase the talent and skill of these dynamic

‘Fables’ opens with the track ‘Tow the Lion’ and we’re introduced to the organic blend of Tom McNeill and Beth Winter, working in perfect unison for the first time. This vocal combination becomes the driving force for much of the album, and with heavy vocal production becoming the norm; this really is a refreshing partnership that leaves you questioning why you would accept anything less in the first place. With the opening track, Joyshop draw the listener in straight away, presenting a concoction of complex beats, sustained strings and a punchy woodwind section, the latter providing the main hook leading from the chorus. What’s more the song is brought to a poignant end with a complex three-part harmony, setting the tone for the rest of the album. You can sense that the band had a great time recording this album and that certainly enhances the authentic experience for the listener.

Perhaps the most intimate moment on the album comes from the fourth track ‘Brick by brick,’ a gentle lullaby that soothes, through a rich blend of acoustic guitar and double bass, that builds effortlessly, as the title of the song might suggest. I’ll always remember the moment when Laura Marling brought a crowd of five thousand to silence at the Cambridge Folk Festival and this song holds that same potential. However, it would be extremely misguiding to suggest that Joyshop’s main strengths lie in their ability to convey subtlety in more delicate numbers, ‘Skylarking’ in particular showcases their talent for writing up tempo pop tunes, that find complexity through their individual talents. The technique of keys player, Nick Pike, reminds me of the embellishments of the keys player in Mr Hudson and the library, before he met Kanye West and everything went a bit Dubstep, all the stops and triplets seem necessary and further enhance the complexity of the music. Likewise, the position of the drums within the mix, really enhance the live quality of the album, you feel as if you’re in the room with the band, as they perform a private concert just for you.

I first discovered the brilliance of Tom McNeill, back in June when I invited him to play a solo show at CB2. That night he won the audience over with his ingenious piece of audience participation, inviting them to choose a subject for each verse as he improvised the lyrics. From then on the audience were hooked, and with ‘Tiger Tiger’ becoming another favourite on the night, I was glad to see this song made it to the final cut. Supported by a collection of percussive acoustic guitar, reverb hand drums and jazz organ, Beth’s laid-back vocals slide delicately over the top and I defy any listener not to have the main catch line of “Tiger Tiger” spinning through their head for weeks.

Whether you’re looking for something to chill out to, or you need a break from the robotic constraints of modern pop music, this is definitely the album for you. With limited edition physical copies selling fast, it might be an idea to visit their Facebook page and reserve your copy now, otherwise you can wait until January 7th when the album goes digital.