Starting life as a bedroom project centred around singer and mulit-instrumentalist Hugo Manuel, Jonquil have slowly evolved into a band with a full compliment of six. Along the way they released first album Sunny Casinos, most of which was Hugo himself, and garnered a small swelling of respect and appreciation.
Lions sees a continuation of the sound explored on their debut album, and not surprisingly a more confident professional sound.
Opening with Lily, Jonquil immediately force you to take a chair and a comfy cushion to hold onto. To say it is enchanting would be something of an understatement. To say it has opiate qualities would also not be too far from the mark. Gentle vocals seep in and out of guitar lines as the song slowly builds introducing layer upon layer of sleepy themes.
This is folk music of a sort, although it doesn’t conform in the slightest to type. Jonquil are not afraid to run with an idea and just keep heading straight on. Lily doesn’t deviate at all, it is perfectly linear and heads directly from start to finish. Reminiscent of Arcade Fire, or the gentler moments from the Guillemots first album, Jonquil practically insist that you listen intently.
Sudden Sun floats softly on a breeze initially, equally as spacey and wonderous as Lily. It then turns a slightly corner introducing classic Beach Boys style harmonies and a somnambulant skiffle beat. Needless to say, it is effortlessly beautiful. Indeed most of this songs will keep you enthralled and in a peculiar hypnotised state as they wrap you in cotton wool for the best part of an hour, protecting you from the outside world and escorting you to rapture.
Of course, that’s not to say that everything is perfect in Jonquil’s universe. Shore is one of the most desolate songs on the album. It’s the sound of an pier at the end of season, empty and battered by the coast. The accordion provides a rural death march, as if soundtracking the stories in Susan Hill’s A Bit Of Singing And Dancing. Magdalen Bridge is, as you might expect maudlin, showcasing the more dour side of the band. It is nonetheless, entirely captivating, although it is hardly shot through with the kind of dreamy pop tones of the likes of Lily or Sudden Sun.
Lions sees Jonquil make a large step forward in terms of songwriting and sound. If Arcade Fire can become one of the biggest bands on the planet, then the experimental pop folk of Lions should have no problem making the transition to a larger audience.