Not Kings, the debut album from UK electro-tinged pop collective Candy Says, is a bit of a puzzler but a mesmeric mystery you cannot help being entranced by. Minimalistic and lo-fi whilst wrapped in flourishes of melodic charm and seductive harmonies, the release tantalises and enthrals from start to finish but you end up wondering why the attraction does not spark a fire in the passions as successfully as it does in the imagination. Usually both go hand in hand and certainly at times the band offer a fuse which is just irresistible but the ebbing and flowing of the album seems to escape a constant supply of that rich reaction. Nevertheless Not Kings is an absorbing flight of sound and adventure which increases its temptation with every venture.
Candy Says is the project of lead vocalist/guitarist Juju Sophie and keyboardist/vocalist Ben Walker, a duo from Oxford who sparked strong attention with a pair of sold out cassette singles via Cool For Cats last year. Recorded entirely in the garage of lead vocalist Juju Sophie’s bungalow, Not Kings confirms all the promise of and buzz around the band and even without setting a blaze inside, gives potent evidence of the real potential of the pair.
The title track gets things in motion with an initial coaxing of handclaps and restrained electro caressing. It is a welcoming start but one which is pale until the sirenesque tones of Juju Sophie lay their warm glances and bewitching charm over ears and imagination respectively. Like a hint to the album as a whole, the song laps over ears like a gentle sea, its aural waves coming and going in strength and relish to offer a persistent suasion which captures thoughts with ease. There are no climactic moments or startling textures to the track just an on-going inviting glaze of synth and vocals aligned to magnetic surges of guitar. It makes for an intriguing proposition with plenty to spark an appetite for the release, a taste soon reinforced by the delightful Favourite Flavour. As the first its touch is reserved and tender without raising a temperature but like a summer breeze the song swarms around and engages the senses with perpetual ease and warmth. The backing tones of Walker add another texture to the golden voice of Juju Sophie whilst musically the song brings potent adventure to instantly lift the profile of the album.
The following C’est Pas Comme Ca is a provocative folk tinged slice of balladry pop with a sixties voice to its seductive temptation which continues the strong and varied start to the album. There is drama and evocative emotion to its absorbing sounds and harmonies whilst the vocals which already guarantee a seductive embrace to the album make no exception here or in the next up Lord’s Mistake. The fourth track is the first major peak of the release; its funk bred stroking of guitar immediate contagious bait which is enhanced by the vocals and the eager dance of the keys. Like a mix of The Mouth Of Ghosts, Tom Tom Club, and Propaganda, the song is a glorious vivacious stroll with more colour and richly exciting hues than the previous trio of songs put together.
Hummingbird graces ears and air next, its pungent beats and fluid keys a potent canvas for the vocals of the band members to contrast and unite in a poetic painting which smooches and flirts with the imagination. There is an additional celestial tone to the ambience of the song which adds to the vivid incitement of the imagination, as most of the tracks achieve, but like its predecessor the croon also works as potently on the passions.
Both the resourceful dance bred Dreamers and the similarly sculpted Melt Into The Sun provide a pleasing presence to immerse within but neither explore the emotions beyond mere satisfaction either even with their superbly crafted and intricate weaves of synths and harmonies whilst Chad straight after unveils a captivating atmosphere of melodic reflection over a rich evocative palette but again that earlier mentioned spark which certainly is burning feverishly in the likes of Favourite Flavour and Lord’s Mistake merely smoulders.
The simultaneously melancholic and vivacious Dead On Arrival brings the release back to an irresistible peak; its sultry climate and emotional elegance an invigorating infection upon the woven scenery of flowing keys and vociferous and alternately mellow vocals, Juju Sophie once more revealing the quality and depth of her voice.
A wonderfully dark and seductive tempting wraps the following Understand The Night, its noir kissed Parisian shadows under street lamp spotlights another enthralling premise to bask in and investigate. It is impossible to resist, leaving a lingering call from the album which the inviting but underwhelming Cool Sensation cannot match. To be fair the song shimmers and lures like a summer soaked lake, its surface a refreshing glow but its depths lack the potency to take the listener into deeper waters of pleasure, an issue the closing Camilla has no problem with. The best track on the album with ease, it makes a gentle offering initially though the vocals have a greater power and passion to them than previously found on the album. It is a striking and lip licking entrance which only deepens its potency with the restrained but wholly infectious almost anthemic stroll of the chorus. The track goes from strength to strength the more it courts ears and thoughts, harmonies and keys alone smouldering kindling to the respectfully flaming heart and expression of the outstanding encounter.
If the album was full of songs like the last it would be a certain classic, but it has enough to make itself a tremendously appealing treat which sounds better the more you venture within it. As we said at the start, the passions might not be set ablaze by Candy Says but the imagination is happily fired up which can only lead to a solid recommendation for Not Kings.
Not Kings is available now digitally, on cd, and on vinyl @ http://candysays.bandcamp.com/album/not-kings
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