Childhood have grown up, and found their groove. Moving on from the indie-pop image of 2014, their new album Universal High is a transformation, introducing synths, keyboards and harmonies. To add some context, Ben Romans-Hopcraft has now taken the helm of the project and it feels more like a personal expression of his roots, a far cry from the loose-guitared tropical four-piece that they used to be. The end result is something carefully put together, slightly funky, slightly psych and ultimately soulful.
Since their last release 3 years ago their audience have moved on from their indie-kid days and are now mature, probably at university, and diversifying their tastes. The band have changed too, taking on a kind of 70s esque, vintage image and are making the music to match. The result is something that is hypnotising, groovy and effortlessly cool. It’s guaranteed to be one of the breakthrough summer albums of the year.
They’ve taken their time, played around with their techniques and perfected their craft. You can hear it from the start, the opening track A.M.D is airy, groovy and seemingly funk influenced. It’s reminiscent of Shuggie Otis, The Isley Brothers and Childish Gambino – but still feels fresh. The lyrics ‘it feels like nothing has changed’ almost reaches out to their old fans, reuniting them once again.
Californian Light is a highlight, entwining a funk-driven bassline, keyboards and carefree tones, there’s a kind of atmosphere that is only heightened by lead singer Ben’s lyricism. He plays with his vocal range, introducing Marvin Gaye style falsettos and harmonies. There’s an extra level to it too as the song name was coined during a drug-fuelled night in San Francisco, when the band were caught by police offers shining torches in their faces. Inspired by this deceptive sense of safety while he was high, Ben wrote a song about it.
While Cameo is also a track that boasts Ben’s impressive range, moving from deep, breathy vocals to high airy tones again, Too Old for My Tears has a faster beat, and more of a rock feel to it but features a funky keyboard solo at the end, of course. However the track shows hints to their old stuff which trickles through the album, and nods to their original fanbase.
At times it may feel a bit cheesy or a bit too vintage, but who cares when the songs are that catchy? Nothing Ever Seems Right being a prime example, cue the slapping basslines, sing-along lyrics, and groovy dance moves. It summarises the overall feel of the album; fresh, funky and full of soul.
The full track-listing for ‘Universal High’ is …
2. Californian Light
4. Too Old for My Tears
5. Melody Says
6. Universal High
8. Don’t Have Me Back
9. Nothing Ever Seems Right