You’ve heard Coves before, even if you don’t think you have. Cast your mind back to 2013 when the BBC aired its historical drama The White Queen, set during the time of The Wars of the Roses; the captivating trailer for the series featured a breathtaking female sung version of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. Remember it now? You should do; it was spellbinding. (Mind you, whatever you thought of the quiff-tastic Isaak, the original version was pretty darn compelling anyway.)
That beautiful vocal belonged to Beck Wood, one half of Leamington Spa duo Coves, her partner being the multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist John Ridgard. Their debut album Soft Friday arrived in March 2014, a “solid step for a promising duo that bore the hallmarks of a band finding their way and discovering themselves musically”. Whilst not perfect, its shoegaze-garage-pop concoction drew widespread comparisons with Mazzy Star for one, with Wood’s Hope Sandoval-like tones cementing the similarities between both bands.
After Soft Friday’s release, the band apparently dismantled their live-in studio in Leamington and left for the far livelier bright lights of London, splitting their time between a new life in the capital and on-road excursions with the likes of The Raveonettes and St Vincent. In March last year, with touring commitments over, producer Cam Blackwood (London Grammar and George Ezra) then got hold of the duo’s home recordings and set to work, helping to complete the follow-up album Peel six months later.
The first single from the collection was the well received Stormy; after stuttering into earshot, Wood’s luscious vocals glide amongst dirty, reverbed guitars that recall Garbage. From this initial glimpse of the new songs on offer it’s obvious that things have moved on since Soft Friday, making the new collection a mouth-watering prospect.
Fuzzy Garbage-like guitars also creep into the slow-brooding gem Tripping Over Lust that showcases a newfound confidence and melody-making ability for its catchy chorus, and there’s more moodiness on show for the excellent dirge-like, organ peppered To The Sea, but it’s not all doom and gloom. The spiky garage-pop rawness that would have won over hearts during the impressive debut album returns for opener Cadavalier, its racing chorus a delight. The bouncier So Empty walks a slightly different path but is equally compelling and the development since Soft Friday is becoming almost tangible.
Stereotypical album closing wind-down Tongue Ties ticks along at pedestrian pace before stunning instrumental chord sequences combine with Wood’s gorgeous tones for a truly stunning finale, but the up tempo You’re Evil is possibly Peel’s greatest moment, and yet more evidence of the leaps and bounds the band have made to their melodic side appear.
Wood is clearly a pessimistic soul: “When does anything work out fine?” she is quoted as saying – “it’s never going to work out fine”. This pessimism bleeds into lyrics emblazoned with bitterness. “There’s always going to be an element of bitterness within the vocal,” she claims, but the strength within the lyricism that genuinely makes you want to listen to every word is just one ingredient of many that make Peel such an essential listen – Mazzy Star meets Garbage meets Wolf Alice. It’s literally bursting with catchiness, memorably fuzzy guitar hooks and mesmerising melodies. In fact, it’s a triumph from start to finish – gorge on it until you choke.