Album Review: Stubborn Heart Debut LP
When Stubborn Heart first poked their heads out of the sand 6 months ago it was with the heavily psychedelic-tinged ‘Knuckledown’, a tender post-garage number swathed in ambient, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’-recalling sound effects. Followed up by the superb and diverse ‘Need Someone’ EP, they suggested that they would be on their way to delivering a broad-shouldered and direct LP of swanky electronica over punchy beats and claps: what ‘Stubborn Heart’ presents though, differs somewhat from expectations.
The duo had already begun describing themselves as an ‘electronic soul’ act well before the release of the album, even releasing a northern soul mixtape through their soundcloud account, but their album is unquestionably a product that fully realises this ambitious label. A sustained fragility and tenderness dominates this subdued record, priding itself on silky pop vocals and spacious sound palettes, and using simple verse-chorus structures to highlight catchy refrains – supported all the way by Luca Santucci’s warming lyrics. ‘You’re so bad, your love for me is only there to make me sad’, he sings in opener ‘Penetrate’, whilst the spiralling chorus of ‘Better Than This’ is enlivened by shimmering bleeps and a pulsing beat. ‘Interpol’ is a clear highlight, a half-time lurker dominated by buzzsaw synth bass and deep, jammy dynamic builds reminiscent of the likes of Portishead and Massive Attack.
The sustained ambience of the record, though, is restraining, as it forfeits the possibility of an engaging, in-your-face single in favour of minimal, indirect passages of music. ‘Starting Block’, the lead single, has a real groove to it, but there’s little else particularly invigorating other than the pumping rhythm of the excellent album closer, the previously-released ‘Need Someone’. Fortunately, Santucci’s soulful vocals across the album are genuinely romantic and affecting, and the sculpture of the album’s soundscapes is beautiful thanks to sensuous production, best exemplified by the ‘Kid A’-esque ‘Head On’. It ultimately equates to an incredible delicate and soft record, exquisitely crafted, but lacking a real punch, best enjoyed whilst losing oneself in the hypnotic artwork video that accompanies the album on Youtube. It’s music you could fall asleep to, but it would be sure to give you some thoroughly chilled-out dreams.
The album is out now and comes with a bonus CD when ordered through Rough Trade.