Since we retired Monday Music Review (R.I.P.) we haven't done much by way of album reviews but we had to make a big exception for Lucky Soul, a band we've been bigging up on Londonist since we fell in love with them on first listen...
In calling their debut album The Great Unwanted, and so arming reviewers with an easy insult if their opinion is not favourable, Lucky Soul are either extremely naïve or immensely confident. If it's the latter, however, the confidence is completely justified. The Great Unwanted exudes the innocent exuberance of music that is simply joyous, favouring timelessness over fashionability.
I Ain't Never Been Cool sums up Lucky Soul's spirit nicely - "Be what you want, be what you want to / Wear what you want, love who you want to" – and the irony of not worrying about being cool, of course, is that this is the coolest thing you can do.
All the lead tracks from the excellent singles that we've alerted you to on Londonist are included on this album (in the case of My Brittle Heart, reworked with a real string section, making it even more grandiose, if that were possible).
They are, in their own ways, both representative and unrepresentative of the album. Take, for instance, Lips Are Unhappy; a song that cannot fail to elicit toe-tapping and head-nodding from anyone with any semblance of rhythm but with a melancholic lyric delivered in a wonderfully yearning style. The juxtaposition is distilled perfectly two minutes and 15 seconds into the track: a simple 'shake, shimmy' lyric supported by an angelic 'ooooooh' backing vocal, a sound that we think could well be the sound of heaven.
The dual personality of the songs pretty much sums up the Lucky Soul sound, actually; capable of being heart-rending and heart-warming at the same time, heartache never felt so good.
Pleasingly for those of us tired of buying albums where the only good tracks are the singles, the best things on The Great Unwanted are the previously-unreleased tracks. The title track is a rhapsodic call to action, similar in defiant attitude to I Ain't Never Been Cool, but more strident in delivery. The final trio of songs (ignoring the hidden track) of The Towering Inferno, It's Yours and The Last Song give us the sad, soulful side of Lucky Soul's already impressive canon.
Much of the credit goes to lead singer Ali Howard's vocals, which start off all coquettish Diana Ross in the first track Add Your Light To Mine, Baby, get all r'n'b (in the old stomping sense) in the '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' referencing Get Outta Town, ending with the heart-breaking country mournful tone in The Last Song. Ignore what passes for soul nowadays, on 'The Great Unwanted' Howard gives a master class in how to imbue a song with real soul, whatever the genre.
Lucky Soul are an absolute treasure. They've delivered the kind of album you want to share with everyone you know, one you'll never tire of hearing, despite playing it constantly for months (a statement we make from personal experience). The music here comes not from the wish to shift units but from a deeply musical soul, and because of that The Great Unwanted sounds like a classic now, and will continue to sound like a classic years and decades from now.
Pleasingly, Londonist's love for Lucky Soul is shared by many others:
The Sindy gave the album 5 out of 5 but we can't find their review online.
Metro (5 stars)
The Guardian (4 stars)
The Times (4 stars)
The Observer ("Impossible to dislike")
Previously on Londonist: Londonist Interview