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There is a certain excitement in discovering a new band just as they hit their stride. With the release of the profoundly-titled To Be My Own, New Desert Blues presents an assured and consistent debut album. This is a band that knows their style and inhabits it confidently.
Within the unique blend of indie, alt-rock and classic pop that defines the band, there is no mistaking a Brit-pop sound, but the six-piece brings depth to their arrangements that gives more than a passing nod to the influence of cinematic soundtracks too.
The mantra of New Desert Blues is a quote from author Kurt Vonnegut ‘nobody will stop you creating’. To Be My Own shows this thoroughly. The sheer number of song ideas they had was incredible – overall they reckon they had between 50 and 60 original songs to work with, which they filtered down to just 13 for the final cut of the album. With such a prolific catalogue to pick from, it’s not surprising that every track deserves it’s place.
The album kicks off with “Milk and Honey”. There are definitely shades of early Squeeze here, with a hook that will take up residence in a corner of your brain, in the yearning chant ‘…know it tastes so good’
The theme of strong, chanted hooks continues through “Head Down”, this time with a pounding earnestness to the words ‘hold my head down’.
Moving into a more upbeat vibe, “Rag and Bone” lifts the mood before leading on to probably my favourite track of the album “By The Lakes”, where softer, gentle vocal harmony combines with delicious guitar. It is an intriguing contrast with “Swarm”, where grungy guitar riffs sit alongside almost sinister lyrics.
The album takes a bluesy turn in “Danger to You”. If it’s possible for a song to be delivered in a laid-back tone but through gritted teeth, this is it. I love the vocal line that carries you away, against a time signature that keeps you on your toes.
If you like to dance, “Dirt” is the track for you – it’s guaranteed to get you moving, in contrast to the edge-of-emo tones that follow in “Golden Coast” and “Heart Like A Stone”.
Closing with “My Master”, which grows from simple, folk-pop origins to a full-blown rock-anthem crescendo, this is an album that you’ll want to put on repeat, probably for quite a while.
The album deserves proper attention. It’s much more than background noise to listen to on the tube, subway or bus. Front man and lyricist, James Cullen, admits to have left much more of himself in these songs than in earlier material. Having caught up with their previous releases, I can appreciate the progression, but their earlier EP ‘The Devil’s Rope’ is definitely worth a listen too and it’s not surprising that music critics and fans alike were impressed.
If you are lucky enough to be around London on 2 March, you can catch New Desert Blues launching the album at The Courtyard – grab a ticket here if there are any still to be had. In years to come you are sure to want to say “I was there”.
Get your copy of ‘To Be My Own’ here.
And get a free download from New Desert Blues here.
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