Imagine an album that combined the beauty and fragility of The XX with the catchiness and raw power of early-to-mid period Radiohead (i.e. when they used to write choruses). Now throw in some Cure-esque basslines, deliciously off-kilter rhythms and simmer with a splash of heavily distorted shoe-gazing. Bliss indeed. Even better is the fact that such an album is no figment of the imagination but is Playtime, the first album from Brighton four-piece, Sparrow.
Signed to tiny indie label, Numbskull HA, Sparrow are four friends (Ali Gavan and Marina Perryman on guitar and boy/girl vocals, Bryn Mabel on bass and Cax Adlington on drums) who have created an exceptional album, full of warm, fuzzy songs about staying in with your hopes, dreams and the ordinariness of everyday life (‘Our Street’, ‘The Factory’). We defy anyone to listen closely to opener ‘All Of The Things You Were Hoping For’ without welling up, just a little bit.
The frail beauty of the harmonies (you’re never quite sure who’s singing at any given time) contrasts perfectly with the muscular basslines, scatterbrain drum-beats and often caterwauling guitar, nowhere moreso than on ‘Stuff’, which is driven by a bombastic bass that is all the more impressive for the fact that it’s only playing two notes.
Then there’s the aching ‘Everyone Leaves’, the infectious sweetness of ‘Sometimes’, the Sundays-ish ‘Standon Green End’ and a Frames-ish take on Willy Wonka’s ‘Pure Imagination’. Playtime is simply the most exciting debut this listener has set ears on since Local Natives’ Gorilla Manor, with which it also shares some similarities in terms of weird beats, glorious vocal harmonies and arrangements that allow the instruments to breathe (‘Secret’). If there’s any justice in this mad musical world, Sparrow are going to be HUGE.