The Little Kicks - Shake Off Your Troubles (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
FROM its opening instrumental, which leans towards the cinematic, to the toe-tapping final track, it’s clear that Aberdeen’s The Little Kicks have big things in mind for themselves.
Having won widespread acclaim for their last album, Put Your Love In Front Of Me, they now return with Shake Off Your Troubles and continue to endear themselves.
And, according to lead singer Steven Milne, “this new album is a collection of songs that means a lot to me and I feel it reflects a massive increase in both my own and the band’s confidence and abilities”.
He continues: “There have been ups and downs personally since we last released music but I’m happy to say that on the whole we have grown to be more proud of what we do and to be less reticent to shout about it and our music.
“The themes of the record would be a feeling of happiness, gratitude and to be thankful with what you have and not take things for granted. Furthermore, not to let others get you down or let anyone put you in your place.”
Opening track, Theme, for instance, unfolds like a night-time cinemascape ripped right out of a film like Drive. But it works a treat in getting you to take notice.
It’s followed by Sing About Something Real, which declares from the outset “I walked into the light, it burned into my eyes”. But there’s that feeling of hope and optimism straight away, of emerging from something troubled and readjusting. But the longer it lasts, the more upbeat it becomes, with Milne eventually declaring: “I don’t want to sing about heartbreak anymore… so let’s sing about something real.”
It’s then that the beats become lighter, the electronic loop takes over and the guitars have a jangly, indie-pop vibe that is highly endearing.
The Little Kicks have long known their way around a good, catchy melody, whether it’s upbeat and rocking, or more ballad-based. And here they deliver that combination in spades.
Don’t Get Mad, Get Even is the type of song that Keane fans could easily embrace; Often is accompanied by a striking falsetto and a throbbing electronic undercurrent that works really well before opening up into a really hopeful, melodic chorus, and Let’s Get Lost Together has a jangly energy that’s genuinely bright and breezy (think early Cure meets The Coral).
But throughout, there’s plenty to enjoy. There’s a nice reality to be found in Goodbye Enemies, Hello Friends, which finds Milne addressing any past critics by singing “stop trying to be a perfect singer, stop trying to write the perfect song, there’s a low point where it doesn’t matter…” It’s as if he’s saying he’s happy with where he’s at and content to have fun on his own.
Yet while the initial melody has a kooky bounce, the layering of a strings-based sound adds a bittersweet melancholy that’s really endearing, before then blossoming into a gloriously upbeat indie-pop blast of fresh air. It’s great and another highlight.
Worth checking out, too, are the likes of You And Someone Like Me, which trades off a really squelchy ’80s style disco beat and synth, yet somehow works, while Milne adopts another stirring falsetto on the striking piano-based ballad Gone But Not Forgotten, which resonates lyrically to deliver another emotional high (complete with more understated strings in the background).
Final track Before We Were Friends, meanwhile, raises the tempo once more by adopting a lively electronic bed and some more jangling guitars to ensure the album ends on a high to leave you feeling uplifted.
As its name suggests, The Little Kicks’ Shake Off Your Troubles is the type of album that’s great for helping you to do just that.
Download picks: Theme, Sing About Something Real, Often, Goodbye Enemies, Hello Friends, Before We Were Friends