Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.
The video for "Two Cousins," a breakout track from Slow Club's second album, 2011's Paradise, still induces a smile. With a pair of impeccably dressed gentlemen high-kicking and stutter-step dancing to the song's fractured drum beat, gliding along with plinking piano notes, the clip is a joyful introduction to the Sheffield, England duo's charm. Five years later, that song sounds like an artifact of a band in happier times — a stark contrast to the winsome, world-weary iteration of Slow Club heard on the fittingly titled new album, One Day All Of This Won't Matter Anymore.
The band's music has always struck a balance between tugging heartstrings and uplifting with bittersweet voices and striking melodies. Yet with One Day, Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson release their emotions and vulnerabilities more than ever. Sequenced as an intimate he-said, she-said narrative, the album's 12 songs seem to find the songwriters embodying opposite ends of a collapsing relationship, with each equally accepting and doling out blame.
On the opener "Where the Light Gets Lost," Watson sits alone, reeling and lost, knowing he missed his window. "I had my chance, and this is letting go," he muses over a smoldering groove. In the bluesy dirge "Ancient Rolling Sea," he describes blustery upheaval — "You've got your battles, and they rage like an ancient rolling sea" — then declares, "I'll always be by your side."
From Taylor's end, the silvery R&B ballad "Come on Poet" unfurls in the chorus: "Did you think it was over? 'Cuz so did I / I can't take on the tiger while I'm still this child / and if something was worth saving, I'd have thought we'd try / it's getting so hard to remember to be fair and kind." The swaying gospel waltz "Give Me Some Peace" is a plea for relief. "And as toxic as ever, it turns into terror / my freedom gone to grief / give me some peace," she sings about her partner's reckless behavior, which threatens to pull them both under — all while gnarled guitar and voices soar to a climactic peak.
And on "Rebecca Casanova," when Taylor sings, "And I don't wanna be the one you call 'the girl who brought me down' / and I don't wanna be guilty of knowing I could have let you out to find her sooner," the song's tick-tock guitar rhythms and glittery synth lines recast what could be a plaintive lament as a bouncy pop gem.
One Day is rich and nuanced, showing how Slow Club's sonic sensibility is elastic enough to fold in an array of styles. While switching from folk ("In Waves") to jangling rock ("Silver Morning"), pining torch song ("Sweetest Grape on the Vine") to rollicking country ("Champion") and even slinky disco glitz ("Tattoo"), the album remains impressively cohesive. That's thanks in part to producer and songwriter Matthew E. White and the in-house band at his Spacebomb Studios in Richmond, Va. Their natural chemistry can be heard in the album's familiar feel and warm instrumentation: mellow Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer keyboards, swooning pedal steel and tasteful guitar licks with strings that blossom around Watson and Taylor's close harmonies.
Whether these songs are biographical or fictional (or likely, a bit of both), Slow Club paints honest pictures of complications in romance and companionship, commitment and betrayal, with things that cannot be unsaid. While the title could be easily be viewed as expressing exasperation in the face of overwhelming struggle, it's also reassuringly calming. No matter how heartbroken you are at the moment, if you can endure, you'll be stronger.