Well, picture in your mind’s eye the cutest album cover imaginable. Something with child-like drawings of a menagerie of species-unspecific animals (bunnies, perhaps) playing instruments and dancing about with balloons. Do you have it?
Now, imagine the kind of song titles you’d need to live up to such artwork. Something like Fur Soft As Fur, or Warm Panda Cola, for instance. Got those?
Finally, consider the instrumentation necessary to make the arrangements as cute as all that. Recorders, banjos, glocks? A smattering of fiddle and campfire acoustic guitar here and there for good measure too.
Mix it all together with a laid-back vibe and woozy vocals and gaze in innocent pleasure at The Boy Least Likely To’s twinkly debut album, The Best Party Ever.
With a lo-fi, homespun sound that calls to mind variously Belle and Sebastian, Beck, The Beatles at their least bombastic and, with their heartwarming vocals, Brian Wilson, The Boy Least Likely To’s songs are never less than tuneful. Thoughtful lyrics are delivered by breathy, laid-back vocals that remind most of Neil Halstead – though the songs are far too upbeat to be mistaken for those of our favourite wistful surfer.
The record is really a sticking-together of three 7″ EPs, but it flows easily as an album. Recorded in the heart of the English countryside, it retains a vein of rural folksyness alongside a hint or three of an Americana fixation.
Be Gentle With Me is a stomper of an opening track, with the full portfolio of those lovely instruments. But as with much of the record, the lyrics are tinged with larger personal themes than the music would at first suggest. There’s an awareness of mortality, of the onset of responsibilities and adulthood, a loss of innocence even: “I just want to sparkle for a moment / Before I fizzle out and die.” Or: “I’m happy because I’m stupid, scared of spiders, scared of flies / If I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t be so scared to die.”
The darkest song on the album, Monsters, continues the theme of holding on to childhood in preference to propagating children. Babies and their parents become monsters all, at the pik’n'mix counter. There’s even a great denouement.
I See Spiders When I Close My Eyes and lead single I’m Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon To Your Star show The Thrills the way to Beach Boys delights by namechecking any number of American states and cities, emphasising that much of this record would be at home in the car’s CD player on a roadtrip across the USA.
The Battle of The Boy Least Likely To, a slow number with glocks and what sounds like double bass, is the most melancholic moment on the album. Yet coming as it does after I’m Glad I… it’s a welcome breather, while Warm Panda Cola is The Boy’s most Becktian moment. Elsewhere, Hugging My Grudge has all the carefree swagger of Everybody’s Talkin’ by Harry Nilsson, used in Midnight Cowboy. It might even be based on it, so similar is the guitar part in the verses.
God Takes Care of the Little Things rounds out the record with recorders and a single couplet of vocals and lasts all of 40 seconds – another pleasant surprise on an album chock full of them.
And that’s The Best Party Ever – a strong contender for cutest album of all time, and the most intoxicating acoustic-based debut since Badly Drawn Boy‘s The Hour of the Bewilderbeast. Quite simply, no bunny – or any other party animal – should be without it.