You can’t put July Talk in a box. As soon as you do, they’ve climbed out the top and are exploring the ground around them. “I wanna be transformed,” sings Pete Dreimanis and Leah Fay on the first track. And their wish is made true by their efforts. The melodic pleasures of 80s pop rock hits shines through on Pray For It. Less screaming, more whispering. No fear to just let the melody breathe.
The pulse of synth on “Identical Love” creates a dusky atmosphere, punctuated by quiet sax. Only the vocals of Peter and Leah easily identify it as July Talk. A quiet and melodic hit, “Identical Love” pulls at the heart while setting a mood. Following the 80s template, “Good Enough” has an upbeat summery vibe, sounding like a sibling to hits you remember from youth.
The first emphasis on guitar comes with a cool, spare riff on “Life of the Party”, but the direction remains the same: a synth backbone, with a quiet understated arrangement. Leah Fay’s vocal is the melodic anchor of this excellent slow burning track with bonus riff. Peter takes center stage on “Pretender”, showcasing his rougher lower voice. This time the arrangement is traditional rock band stuff with guitars, bass and drums jamming as they do. Then it’s back to a more electronic atmospheric style on “Pay For It”, augmented by piano and breezy, humming sounds.
Unexpectedly “Pay For It” perfectly sets up the soul singin’ of “Champagne”. Guest vocalists James Baley and Kyla Charter deliver on this one, with an undeniable hook and legitimate soul. The massive melodic majesty of “Champagne” makes it a clear album centerpiece (and it just so happens to occupy the center slot in the track listing).
A light, quirky “Friend of Mine” sounds like something that originated in the 1960s if not for the reference to “my mother in the next room, gambling on computer screens”. But this gentle duet lies in the shadow of the smashing “The News”: pure pop rock perfection sung solely by Leah Fay, with timely lyrics. “Gimme context, without context everything is true,” sings Leah. It’s truly a remarkable song. The crashing guitars and chiming chords that July Talk have kept in reserve until now are well served by a perfect song. Vocals, lyrics, melody, and arrangement come together in a flawless 3:39. Listen carefully to the voices in the noise, meticulously mixed in as part of the pleasure.
Headlining the closing three songs, “Governess Shadow” is one of the singles, and has an upbeat Bosstones-like vibe only without the horns. “See You Thru” has a haunting quality, like closing time at the bar, while somebody’s mopping the floor and putting the chairs up on the tables. Then the album closes on the digital heartbeat of “Still Sacred”, almost a coda to the whole thing.
There’s a sense of painstaking assembly to the songs on Pray For It. The impression is that a lot of time and inner soul went into the arrangements. Each song sounds like it was meticulous assembled. Maybe that’s a bi-product of a band with two vocalists singing lead simultaneously; maybe the music has to be arranged meticulously. July Talk are hands-on when it comes to details like their artwork, music videos and performances. It makes sense the same attention to detail would be in the bones of their songs as well.