Album Reviews

Coves – Soft Friday

(Nettwerk) UK release date: 31 March 2014

Coves - Soft Friday Pissing in a Belgian dressing room frequented by Elton John isn’t exactly the way to make new friends, but Coves’ mastermind John Ridgard has that dubious claim to fame nevertheless. Ironic, then, that the new buzz band hailing from the inconspicuously humble Leamington Spa took their name from a dated term for ‘old friends’.

Whilst multi-instrumentalist Ridgard may be the musical force behind the band, the subtle tones of Beck Wood complete the duo. When Ridgard first heard his friend sing he was blown away, instantly recognising similarities with Mazzy Star’s legendary vocalist Hope Sandoval.

It’s a similar path to Mazzy Star that Coves walk too: ever changing influences include Phil Spector and ‘60s psychedelic rock, with the emphasis often placed on Wood’s delicate vocals amidst shimmering, shoegaze backdrops. And by having a track remixed by TOY they have also made a telling connection with the booming new-psych movement that also includes bands such as Temples and a Ridgard favourite, Tame Impala.

Since their 2011 formation, the duo have enjoyed increasing amounts of air time – still marvelling at the sound of themselves on radio – and won over Liverpudlian stalwarts Echo & The Bunnymen, whom they accompanied on an extensive tour after being handpicked by Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant. With an interesting cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game also adorning a BBC trailer in 2012 and now supporting Band Of Skulls, their presence is constantly building into something bigger.

Fall Out Of Love opens new album Soft Friday with clashing drums and twanging guitar straight out of a Western, developing into a constantly changing effort veering between minimal sections where Wood’s wispy vocals breathe alone and drums pound alongside reverb guitar. The slow paced Honeybee follows: it’s a middling effort, from its sweet sounding beginnings to Mazzy Star minimalism.

Beatings begins with more twanging guitar touches and subtle organ accompaniment before developing into another pace changing track with harmonica, acoustic guitar and other sound effects materialising throughout. Drums then introduce Last Desire, one of the stronger tracks on the album, where Wood’s sultry tones provide the perfect accompaniment to the drumbeat. A catchy, echoey chorus then leads to a conclusion massed with electronica.

Let The Sun Go is another highlight, a slow trudge through more interesting electronica and whispered vocals, its chord change before the chorus a real spine tingler before the declaration “I beg I steal I run”. No Ladder benefits from a backdrop of a concoction of instruments, the most telling being a chiming xylophone type sound, but ultimately it’s a rather dull effort without much in the way of catchiness to recommend it.

The poppy Cast A Shadow is a gem – a bouncy stop-start number built around a snake charmer melody and reverb guitars whilst Fool For Your Face is a quiet affair with little percussion, most accompaniment coming in the form of shimmering synths and twanging guitar. Album closer Wake Up though is the best track by some distance: a distinct, doomy guitar riff, slow constant drum beat and sultry vocals combine for the verses before a repeated line of “I need you to wake up” is furnished with glimmering guitar, returning to that effective riff throughout.

Whilst the songwriting skills are still being honed, Soft Friday represents a solid step for a promising duo. It bears the hallmarks of a band very much finding its way, developing ideas into reality, forming an identity, and generally discovering themselves musically. If the promise continues to develop then there’s plenty of evidence on offer here to suggest that Coves will indeed one day become like old friends to us all.

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More on Coves
Coves @ Brixton Academy, London
Coves @ The Victoria, London
Coves – Peel
Coves – Soft Friday
Coves @ Birthdays, London