Published Sep 08, 2016On their debut, Toronto rockers July Talk laid the bedrock for a sound, a disco-blues groove underlying him vs. her vocals, that catapulted them to the top of the Canadian alt-rock charts. On Touch, the quintet take on the often attempted, rarely achieved goal of expanding on that sound without alienating the sizeable audience that has supported the band thus far.
Despite its success, July Talk was an uneven album buoyed by a handful of barnstorming singles (subsequent re-releases appended some strong material that nevertheless emphasized its patchiness). Touch, on the other hand, never suffers such a fate; from the slinky "Strange Habit" to the slow burn of the title track, the album showcases the band's multiple musical personalities while still delivering a singular vision.
The descending piano hook of opener "Picturing Love" unveils July Talk 2.0, a band less concerned with drawing tension out of the yin-yang vocals of singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay. A record designed to "move bodies," they offer a loose groove off of which the duo deliver complementary lines decrying pornography's isolated voyeurism. It's an oft-repeated formula that never wears out its welcome across the record's ten tracks, which are mostly concerned with the absence of human connection.
The band still know how to rage, though — lead single "Push + Pull" finds Dreimanis's gruff howl in fine form. But where Fay previously acted as a foil, here the two singers, working in lock-step with guitarist Ian Docherty, bass player Josh Warburton and drummer Danny Miles, are co-conspirators.
Marked by stronger grooves, darker lyrics and catchier hooks, Touch pushes July Talk's musical vision forward without sacrificing their core elements. It's an album that should cause anyone who'd previously dismissed the band reason to reconsider their stance, while exceeding existing fans' expectations. (Sleepless Records/Island)