While the UK music scene continues to be engulfed by Brit-pop, boy bands, and Adele, there is also an indie resurgence happening. Bands like Foals, Royal Blood, Temples, Wolf Alice, Black Honey, and Drenge (and Radiohead since they are technically still an indie band) have been stealing most of the headlines – and rightfully so – but another band deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as these stellar acts.
Since their debut album, Lights Out, in 2011 and their sophomore follow-up, 2013’s June Gloom, Big Deal have become synonymous with the UK alternative scene. June Gloom, however, could have been the last record by the band, as the past three years have been nothing but turmoil for the band. Two of Big Deal’s original members departed for other projects leaving just Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood as the principal partners, the duo’s laptop was stolen in December 2014 that contained concepts and songs for a new album, Costelloe’s apartment was broken into, and the band separated from its previous label. The duo could have called it quits, but instead they have rewarded people’s patience – not to mention their own resilience – with a new album, Say Yes.
Album number three sees the band integrate their early, grungy, alternative rock roots with the shoegaze and alt-pop leanings of their most recent effort. The result is a record that simultaneously blows your mind with anthemic rockers and leaves you in a foggy state. The former is perfectly captured on “Avalanche”, which is not only the album’s highlight but one of the best songs of the year. The song mixes the edgy but euphoric brilliance of Yeah Yeah Yeahs with the intensity of Paramore. And like these bands, Big Deal have crafted a song that could be considered an anthem for every person looking for motivation to move on and overcome life’s many challenges. It is a calling to live life to its fullest and leaving all regrets behind. As Costelloe and Underwood holler, “And you live and you die. Then it’s over. You live as you die then start over.”
The album’s title track continues this theme of perseverance and resurgence. The No Joy-meets-MGMT vibe that underscores the song is surprisingly catchy, particularly during the moments when the duo exults “Say Yes!” “V.I.T.R.I.O.L” again has a Yeah Yeah Yeah’s vibe, but during their It’s Blitz! era. It’s a rocking, blistering, disco-punk track that thematically echoes the ’70s punk scene’s calling of individuality and independence. “Hold Your Fire” and “Don’t Forget”, meanwhile, surge with the confidence of Paramore and Wolf Alice, rife with deep bass lines and raucous guitar riffs. They are songs that likely would be awesome in a live setting where the band could extend the guitar solos.
When the band channels their shoegaze and alt-pop other half, the songs tend to slow down and the focus becomes more introspective and relationship-oriented. “Saccharine”, for instance, weaves through both crystalline and alt-pop effects on this song about the give-and-take in a relationship. While the song suffers a bit from its mixed approach, “Lux” is deliciously lush and dreamy, resonating My Bloody Valentine’s soothing soundscapes. The album’s closer, the lengthy “Idyllwild”, is a love song told through a combination of idling pop-rock tones and post-rock, shoegaze climaxes (think Explosions in the Sky). The flourishes border on brilliant and more of the fuzzy crystalline guitars would have made the song a titanic of a track.
There is one moment in the album where the two halves collide. “Veronica” is a piece of experimentation that succeeds. Commencing with hazy, crystalline guitars and the two-part, pop harmonies of Costelloe and Underwood, the song feels similar to “Saccharine’s” alt-pop approach. The track, however, then unexpectedly ventures into an explosive, rock finish. The build up that leads into the song’s crushing, final 75 seconds is awesome. If there is one thing to nitpick about the song is its positioning, as it would have been the perfect ending to this whirlwind of an album.
Despite everything Costelloe and Underwood have experienced over the past three years, they sound confident of Big Deal’s direction. While Say Yes does meander between multiple sounds and influences, overall it is a strong and assured album with moments of brilliance, some of which would easily rival some of the best music of the year. And to think they could have packed it in and moved on; instead, they have offered a terrific album that sets the stage for something possibly even more anthemic and stupendous. Let’s hope they have their laptop locked up in a safe place.
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