Charming – Champagne and Magazines

Champagne and Magazines

Charming are a bit of a puzzle. They blend styles almost without a care, dabbling in indie-pop, 70’s disco, 80’s new-wave, soul, funk, and perhaps a few other varieties of music, all within the same songs. The combination sounds dreadful on the surface, but somehow, this four-piece makes it work. They’ve created music that’s light and airy but that you wouldn’t mind dancing to.
The elements here are pretty familiar. Light beats are complemented by low-end grooving bass and strong guitar work. The focus is on the vocals, strong female vocals and confident if recessed male harmonies. The vocals really do take the fore, making a constant whether the band is bringing to mind disco greats or twee-pop goodies. Even in their cheesier moments – when the disco influences are at the foreground – the band still keeps things light and bouncy, giving pop fans something to smile about and groove to.
The throbbing, groove-filled bass line on the opener, “Let Me Take You Out” contrasts with the light poppy beat and horns, while the guitar comes over top in an almost funk format. Again, that slightly 70s guitar warbling on “Downtown” is a bit distracting, and this song is probably the band’s most blatant disco moment. I cringe a bit as I imagine blinking lights and loud suits hip-thrusting on a dance floor somewhere. Luckily, the band gets a bit more modern with the dreamy, mellow “Where Have I Been” which shows off the gorgeous female vocals and the very pretty and twee “April” that’s as springtime light as its name. On “Guilty By Association,” the fuzzy guitars overtake the keyboards at times for a Bis-like rocking chorus, and bossa nova beats and soft rhythms take over on “Charlottesville, 1997.” The production in “How Unkind” feels a bit odd, with the vocals almost too prevalent, but the chiming and pretty pop track is still my favorite here. The band shows off its wit on “The Interview,” with the slyly penned lyrics “You know, I’m not into three-way calls, but I haven’t had a call in days” over a very smooth, keyboard-driven pop tune.
This album won’t be for everyone. Unlike many of Shelflife’s wonderful sugary indie-pop releases, this one is much more up-beat and playful. The disco beats and theme are a bit over-the-top, but when that isn’t the focus, the songs are quite good. Singer Nicole St. Clair Stoops has a strong, lovely voice, and the band’s groove under each song gives them a unique flare. So this is fun and charming, as the band suggests, just better for those days when you feel you’ve gotta shake what you’ve got.