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Having formed back in 2008, Cambridge duo Victoria and Jacob set sail for the bright lights of London to fulfil their musical dreams (or drove down the A14 more likely). A few years and a few singles later we get their self-titled debut album, a record that treads that fine line between being alternative and mainstream. You could say that walking a tightrope like this is dangerous, but don't forget that tightrope walking is a form of entertainment and when done successfully can be hugely impressive. Saint Etienne did the same for years and it never did them any harm; they've retained a fanbase when other alt-pop or more regular pop acts are now nothing more than distant nostalgic memories. So the big question is, can these two, along with talented producer Oliver Price deliver similarly rewarding music.
To exemplify the style of their music and to give you an idea of where they're coming from, they give two sets of references. Firstly, the credible mainstream pop of All Saints (specifically their William Orbit collaborations) and Kylie (latter day, not the Stock, Aitken and Waterman pap). Secondly, they also mention more alternative acts such as Grimes and The xx, and to be honest that lot explains their position quite well. Nothing here is overly commercial, they have a taste for modern, innovative sounds, dreampop, and also the catchy hooks that pure pop can bring, but you'll struggle to find a whiff of cheese. Whether positioning themselves in such a place will amount to them not being pop enough for the masses and not cool enough for the indie crowd we'll have to wait and see. But importantly they appear to have made the exact album they were aiming for, so you can't ask for more than that.
Songs on which they "do a Saint Etienne" and get that balance perfectly would include the single 'Theia Mania', the poppier, more upbeat 'Festival', 'I See You', and they touch on the Scandi-pop of Niki & The Dove and so on with 'Desire'. Dreampop can be many things, but perhaps Victoria and Jacob make use of it in its literal sense. It's not a less harsh, more ambient form of shoegaze (except perhaps 'Take Another Lover'), it's pop music that's less forceful and more fantasy-filled, like living in a twilight zone. 'Believe The Boy' touches on this in an experimental way, 'The Rain Might Clear' is a gentle and chilled song that really stands out, the floaty 'Emily's Song' takes it further and is a high point. Maybe the purer pop of 'Cry Baby' won't go down with those of more alternative tastes, but it could be a song such as this that provides them with a commercial breakthrough. They finish with the classic chillout of 'There's A War' which has a lovable vocal. Victoria and Jacob have traversed their high wire with barely a wobble.
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