Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind of Fix
Hey, everybody, A Different Kind of Fix is probably one of the year's best albums that you haven't heard; seriously, is it just me or has this album flown way under the radar? I haven't seen very many people at all talking about it, at least not here in the States. Even if the rest of the album was utterly horrible (which, obviously, it is not), "Shuffle" is the best pop song, bar none, that I've heard all year - hell, it's probably battling with one or two others for the best song of 2011, period. It's that good (and, in an alternate universe, should be a massive radio hit). The song showcases everything Bombay Bicycle Club has to offer at its absolute peak: the instrumentation is interesting (note the repeated piano motif that sounds a bit like a little kid hitting the keys at random and the electronic sampling that also reoccurs throughout the song) but not off-putting, Jack Steadman's vocals are quirky and highly individual but not polarizing and the melodies are diverse enough that, though it follows in the vein of a classic pop song, it also retains a sense of unpredictability. Basically, the song is immediate and traditional enough to appeal to a mass audience while also being creative and refreshing enough to impress those music aficionados who are a little harder to please - it's truly the best of both worlds. The rest of the album works in a similar way: there may not be anything too edgy here but it isn't simply a rehash of things we've all heard before either. The technique of heavy repetition in a single song can easily backfire and become boring or tedious to listen to but the repetition in opener "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep" gives the song a hypnotic and driving quality that is anything but dull; it sets the bar for the rest of the album extremely high. Luckily, Bombay Bicycle Club best themselves time and time again. Vocalist Lucy Rose contributes to several tracks and her clean, airy timbre contrasts well with Steadman's characteristic warble. On the almost tropical-sounding "Lights Out, Words Gone," her subtle backing vocals only contribute to the song's unique atmosphere, like a cool island breeze, and her effortlessly light repetition of the song's title in "Leave It" leads beautifully into the more intense sections of the song, which find Steadman singing passionately, "Don't you go evade me now/Come see what you've done/I keep thinking lately how/All these feelings won." Other highlights include "Bad Timing," which is slightly more jarring and experimental than anything else on the album, "What You Want," another basically flawless pop song, and devastating closer "Still." In this final song, Steadman sings purely in a wavering, heartbreaking falsetto such potent lines as, "Did he fill the empty spaces/Was he everything I'm not?/There's no force behind my mouth/But in just three words he brings you down/There's a movement out the door, I swear, but no/Your lips, they stay perfectly still." The way this last word is electronically drawn out, simmering just beneath the vocal layers of the chorus, lends an even more unsettling effect to the song. It's an intensely emotional finale, most similar in style to the minimal, acoustic balladry of last year's Flaws but dialed way up to ten, and it'll stay with you long after listening. As a whole, A Different Kind of Fix is one of the most immensely listenable albums I've heard in a long time - it's certainly the one I've most often felt the urge to put on.