Album Review: Big Deal – Say Yes

By on Monday, 18th July 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Big Deal Say Yes cover‘Say Yes’, Big Deal third album, was released in mid-June on Fat Cat Records. Unfortunately for the transatlantic duo, it wasn’t easy getting to that point. They ran into many complications along the way, one of which involved Kacey Underwood having his laptop, filled with demos, stolen from his apartment. They had also split from their previous label Mute, which meant they had to borrow money to self-fund their new album. In this respect, the new record stands for a lot to Big Deal, to such an extent that when asked about it, they explain “it is about taking all kinds of heartbreak and defeat, and just looking at it dead in the eye and going for it.”

Big Deal essentially began in London in 2010 when Kacey Underwood taught Alice Costelloe some songs on guitar. Prior to ‘Say Yes’, they released two studio albums via indie record label Mute: ‘Lights Out’ in 2011, followed by ‘June Gloom’ in 2013. Costelloe says, “‘Lights Out’ is about not being together, ‘June Gloom’ is about being together and ‘Say Yes’ is about breaking up and trying to make sense of it all.” With such a depiction of an ever-meandering relationship in mind, one can really get a grasp on how the duo set out to portray this in the album. One aspect in particular is the complete utilisation of bassist Jesse Wong and drummer Jessica Batour, whom together bring the album a whole new level of attitude.

The album’s opening tracks ‘Hold Your Fire’ and ‘Avalanche’ showcase Wong and Batour perfectly; the monstrous drum sound and aggressive guitar riffs, doubled on bass throw you right into the deep end, and in a way that represent the struggles the band had experienced with the album and how they overcame them. The dynamic fluctuations and expressive vocal melodies in each meandering section together paint a sonic picture of a break-up, taking you through the stages of grief, anger and confusion bubbling at the surface of those involved.

Following closely at the heels of ‘Avalanche’, and in keeping with the portrayal of problems, is album title track ‘Say Yes.’ The track focuses on the band’s determination to turn negatives into positives. It was fight or flight for the duo, and thank god they chose to fight. ‘Say Yes’ is an ode to Big Deal’s ambition and strive to pull themselves out of the slump. Led primarily by Costelloe’s vocal performance and lyrics, the track gives us a look into what the couple was going through in their moment at professional life rock bottom. The jangly guitar line and accompanying open string chords don’t provide much substance within the verses. However, this works because the heavy hitter of the track is the most definitely the screeching, war cry of a chorus, propelling the message “I won’t tell you, won’t tell you / everything works out right.” Each chorus is emphasised further by the moments of tension that precede them, whether it’s a chord change to the 7th creating suspense before resolving, or dropping the guitars out completely and chanting lyrics like “I was ready, I was ready / are you ready, are you ready / just let it happen!”

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxejdjX3aGo[/youtube]

As the album moves into its middle stage, there is a gradual shift in emotion, from anger and aggression to somewhat sadness and disparity. It feels almost as if the band are taking a moment to step back and reflect on the events surrounding the making of the album, rather than attacking them head on as on earlier tracks. Songs like ‘Lux’ and ‘Veronica’ carry an overtone of said emotions,. However, the beguiling yet beautiful melodies within contradict these feelings, ultimately revealing the sense that the healing process has begun in this metaphorical breakup. ‘Kitty Pride’, with its upbeat tonality and nonstop bounce, marks a turning point for the band, in which they decide to pick themselves up and move on from the crumbling relationship. With lyrics “it’s not over / just starting over / we’ll get over / getting older” accompanying the catchy melody, it’s very hard to avoid the message the band are delivering.

The album winds down to a resting feeling of relaxation and accomplishment as it approaches its final few tracks. We also see a throwback to Big Deal’s roots when they were merely a guitar and voice duet, playing sweet yet gritty songs like ‘Talk’ and ‘Homework’. ‘Still My Dream’ and the album closer ‘Idyllwild’ replicate this period of their career very closely. ‘Idyllwild’ in particular is filled with emotion in every aspect. The key to this song is to wait and expect the unexpected, specifically approaching the 6-minute, 50-second mark. The verses carry a graceful blend between Costelloe and Underwood’s voices amongst the backdrop of delicate chords that plod along with a sense of safety. That is, until the chorus, when a huge wall of fuzz juxtaposes the previous feeling with one of pure disparity.

The duo have stated that they did everything backwards in terms of discovering themselves and developing their sound. However, how they got here doesn’t subtract from the fact that ‘Say Yes’ is Big Deal’s strongest release yet. If this is the direction in which they continue in, things are going to get very exciting.

7.5/10

Big Deal’s third album ‘Say Yes’ is out now on Fat Cat Records. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Big Deal, go here.

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