Knowing that Canadian indie-rock band July Talk formed after both vocalists met in a bar one night makes perfect sense considering the kind of rough-and-ready music they make on their self-titled debut album. Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay make for one hell of a pair as they trade singing duties over the course of one very brisk and energetic album, both of them backed up by some sufficiently strong music.
The Garden opens the album with Dreimandis’s charismatic rasp over a very catchy bassline. The guitar and drum enter the picture, but it’s Josh Warburton’s bass that drives the song (backed up amply by Danny Miles’ no-nonsense drumming). Fay’s vocals are much cleaner and softer than Dreimandis’s but that doesn’t make them any less intense as every line she sings carries a sardonic undertone. Guitarist Ian Docherty gets the chance to show off some skittish guitar proficiency during a brief solo, marking a sign of things to come.
Guns + Ammunition features many of the same characteristics – alternating vocalists, a strongly emphasised rhythm section, some guitar flitting in and out of hearing but always leaving an impression – but still manages to distinguish itself through heavily punctuated and occasional isolated vocals. Paper Girl starts off with a very country-sounding guitar riff and stomping rhythm but starts alternating the music between sparse vocal-driven sections and loud rocking sections. Headsick sounds like a fairly typical mid-tempo indie-rock track, mixing quiet and loud sections in a manner similar to the Pixies. The perky melody creates some interesting dissonance with the lovelorn misery in the lyrics. A good number, albeit a notably derivative one.
Gentlemen is a slow bluesy number with a clearly punctuated musical section where both vocalists play to their strengths. Dreimandis does his best Tom Waits impression while Fay’s vocals are high and lilting but still manage to convey a range of emotions, with the interplay resulting in choruses that are loud and emotionally powerful to boot. Blood + Honey contrasts with the previous track by cranking up the tempo and rocking out a bit more, but there’s still some venom here. It’s bouncy and centres around a good hook, but it still feels like a lesser track compared to what’s come before.
Summer Dress is slower but still has that sort of slightly funky edge that distinguishes this band’s music. The rhythm section and vocals are as strong as ever, but special mention must go to Docherty’s guitar work managing to make this track really stand out. Don’t Call Home is a noticeably moodier, bass-heavy number. Though the verses are appropriately icy and melancholy in terms of both music and lyrics, the upbeat choruses do tend to warm things up ever so slightly and work wonders, especially during the subdued outro.
Uninvited starts with some frenetic vocals and guitar that immediately grabs one’s attention before the rest of the instruments kick in for a really high-energy number. Another stand-out track for the guitar, with the sections where the guitar is isolated before launching back into a full-band sound really leave an impression. This is definitely one of the better tracks on offer. Someone is another frantic number that features scratchy post-punk guitars and powerful drumming right from the outset. The vocals are nasty and slick in equal measure, though it does seem to suffer slightly from having to follow up the adrenaline rush provided by Uninvited.
Let Her Know dials things down with the band trying to sound a lot more pleasant without compromising the distorted guitars. The introduction of a prominent synthesiser line definitely adds some character, as does the strangely romantic vibe that bleeds through the combined vocals on offer. The band tries doing something different and it works wonders. After all these passionate tracks, album closer I’ve Rationed Well almost feels like an anticlimax as it starts with a simple, subdued country-blues guitar part. The energy is reserved here as both vocalists play off one another over a brief number that sounds bleak but also slightly optimistic, ending with a squealing guitar fading into nothingness.
July Talk has managed to make a strong debut that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve yet still musters enough talent and power to keep a listener invested for its entire running time. The band’s explosive nature affects every song for the better, even the slow-burners, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the fun. If you’re in the market for something gruff yet emotional that also features catchy rhythms and strong musicianship, I definitely recommend this.