Words: Emily Arc (Guest contributor)
2011 seems to be the year of boy-girl duos (see Tennis, Cults, Summer Camp, Best Coast, Cat's Eyes etc) and though Big Deal have already gained comparisons with the folk-rock Slow Club, the duo of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood just seem to be their distant relations in the boy-girl genre.
Only formed early in 2010, and already with a signing to Mute, country-wide tours under their belt and a steadily rising profile, Big Deal already promised much, even before the release of 'Lights Out'. However, much to everyone’s delight, said debut album has now been released, and it certainly blows the other boy girl duos out of the water. The transatlantic duo fuse their vocals together over layered guitars (one acoustic and one electric) singing about transitions between friendship, sex and relationships.
'Distant Neighbourhood' starts off the record, with plunging electrics, quickly accompanied by Underwood’s acoustic - a relatively lively start to the album. Next song 'Chair' begins with acoustic strumming, conveying a sense of immediacy, and it’s here where the lack of any percussion at all is noticeable, allowing the listener to focus on lyrics such as "Wanna be your lover/ Trying hard to be your friend/ You’re so sweet and you keep me that way/ Mess with my head".
Other highlights include 'Homework' and 'Talk', with 'Homework' undoubtedly being the best on the entire album. The lovelorn vocals of Costelloe, and later the overlapping of Underwood, blend magnificently with the dulcet tones of the guitars. This melodiousness, however is soon eliminated, from the very first chord of next song, the 90s influenced 'Talk'. With lines like 'All I wanna do is talk/seeing you fucks me up' bitterness and regret are evident here, and couples nicely with 'Locked Up', where the pain of unreciprocated affection is the focus.
Though the album is describing tales of love and loss, as well as the aforementioned melancholic songs, 'Cool Like Kurt', 'Swoon', and 'With the World At My Feet' have a strange sanguine feel about them, though not upbeat by any means. In these songs in particular, the lack of percussion is not as apparent as other songs like Summer Cold or Homework where the vocals are sometimes verging on acapella.
'Nostalgic Visions' sees the continuation of those harmonious melodies so trademark to Big Deal, and provides an interesting song to precede the intoxicating Seraphine, whereby the attention is on raucous, almost harsh, strumming.
Record ender 'Pi' is the only song on the album with added synths, which adds to the lackadaisical vocals, sang only by Underwood until a third of the way in, and he’s joined by Costelloe, whose voice is not dissimilar to Lykke Li here. Though the two are back to their mesmerising melodies, the music itself does most of the talking, almost as if words can no longer express their thoughts. An interesting choice to end the record with, but a good and appropriate one nevertheless, leaving the listener with a sense of wistfulness.
Considering Big Deal only formed in 2010, have already conquered the sub-genre of the boy girl duo in 2011, 2012 can only bring bigger and better things, though right now that hardly seems possible.
STREAM: Homework by Big Deal
'Lights Out' is available to purchase from your local retailer, Amazon.co.uk etc. Stream in full at Soundcloud.com/muterecords.