Review: Chad Valley releases infectious new pop album

Ryan Morris

Editor’s note: The following reflects the opinion of the author.

The reception of Chad Valley’s debut full-length album “Young Hunger” could be encapsulated in one word: infectious. While some listeners may find this glittery synth-pop album irresistible, others might try everything within their power to keep from succumbing to its contagious hooks.

Hugo Manuel, the brains behind this Oxford-based music project, is part of the artistic collective Blessing Force, also based in Oxford, England.

While this is Manuel’s first full album, his experience with dance music is nothing new. Before taking on Chad Valley as a solo project, he was part of Jonquil, an equally dance-focused band.

Appropriately, the sounds of “Young Hunger” are nothing new to music as a whole. This album is undeniably influenced by eighties pop music. However, something about this album shines through as genuine rather than ironic.

It’s hard to keep from repeating the refrain of the album’s second track “Tell All Your Friends” over and over again. Manuel sings, “Tell all you friends, Tell everyone / All I wanna think about is you,” over an arrangement of synths and synthetic beats which sound like they couldn’t come from anywhere other than the shelves of a used record store.

Manuel drew from other popular styles as well to create this album. In “My Girl,” the album’s fourth track, Manuel sings “If you wanna be my girl / You’ve gotta get with my friends,” a line referring to Spice Girls hit single “Wannabe.”

Another track, “Evening Surrender” seems to channel post-Genesis Phil Collins and, even more surprisingly, Marvin Gaye. Listen to this track with “Sexual Healing” in mind and you’ll understand.

The song opens with a slow drum-machine produced rhythm characteristic of 80’s R&B and then what sounds like a synth-replicated saxophone fades in. “Evening Surrender” features the vocals of Sarah Assbring of Swedish music project El Perro Del Mar.

To balance out a lot of the older influences, “Young Hunger” features a surprising array of guest artists including Twin Shadow, Glasser and Active Child. His inclusion of these indie-pop frontrunners really helps to bring this album out of the past and into the listenable present.

These guest appearances seem to keep the album grounded while it toes the line of self-indulgent nostalgia and quality pop music.

Overall, the album is very top-heavy. The first five tracks are the best and most memorable, but after the album’s interlude, it drops off into electro-mediocrity with only a few slightly redeeming moments here and there.

Rating: Two and a half out of four stars.

Story: CONNOR CHILDERS, Senior A&E Reporter