Just Handshakes – Say It (album) (Bleeding Gold Records)

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

C-86 fans get excited. Following a string of successful singles and EP’s, ‘Say It’, the debut album from the Leeds indie-rock quartet Just Handshakes is about to be released.

Back in February we reviewed the album’s opening track and first single “London Bound” (read our review). With its post-punk beginning built around a melodic New Order/Joy Division-like bass line, angular guitar textures, and an up-tempo kick-drum & hi-hat pattern, “London Bound” swiftly moves into a four-to-the-floor beat where a glorious C-86 inspired chorus kicks in bringing with it a mouthful of sugary pop goodness. Bite a little deeper however and you’ll find the taste is in fact bittersweet. Combined with Clara’s quirky and tuneful vocals, “London Bound” is a brilliant and energetic start to the record.

The band’s loose and jangly guitar pop harkens back to the early 90’s sharing most in common with The Sundays and Lush with hints of Stereolab (think “Crest”), The CranberriesFrente!, and hotly tipped newcomers, Wolf Alice.

The nostalgic, Frente!-esque title track is arguably the record’s most hooky. A cute, quirky and hooky number that captures the spirit of Just Handshakes perfectly. Meanwhile, the brilliant “Running Wild” and “Dead and Alive” are two of the mosst energetic and rock-y songs on the album and both surely contenders for the album’s second single.

Over the 12 tracks that make up ‘Say It’, it’s immediately clear the band have a knack for writing cleverly crafted and highly melodic pop with influences ranging from folk to rock to pop. Each song flows effortlessly, avoiding predictability, derivative arrangements and clichéd melodies. One of the most appealing qualities is the fact that ‘Say It’ is the sound of a real band – not a singer/songwriter piecing together songs with a band in a studio.  What really gives Just Handshakes their distinctive sound though is Clara’s melodic and folk-tinged vocals.

‘Say It’ is for the most part an up-tempo and poppy record, however tracks like “Kiwi” and the gorgeous “November” exude a darker quality and, as hinted in “London Bound”, there is also a sense of melancholy – none more evident than closing track “Balmoral”.

A thoroughly enjoyable and nostalgic record, ‘Say It’ proudly sits out on its own completely avoiding current trends. ‘Say It’ will be released in various formats on 20 May 2013 through Bleeding Gold Records. If you are in the U.K. you can pre-order via the Just Handshakes bandcamp and if you’re in the U.S. you can pre-order via the Bleeding Gold Records bandcamp.

Listen to “Bright Lights” below: