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The Shop Window – Daysdream (Jangleshop)

2 May 2024

In Kent, located in the southeastern corner of England, The Shop Window (TSW) is making majestic must-listen indie-pop. Yes, I know this may sound like overblown hyperbole in light of world events. And sure, at the end of the day, “this is pop” as Andy Partridge once sang, but like his band, XTC, TSW is writing timeless—and frankly imperative—music.

With two prior albums under their belt, ”The State of Being Human” (Spinout Nuggets, 2021) and ”A 4 Letter Word” (Spinout Nuggets, 2022), TSW is known for blending Byrds -ian 12-string guitars and radiant RIDE -ian vocal harmonies in a pristine indie-pop package. And while the two prior LPs are fine and well worth exploration and repeated plays, the new effort out May 3rd is something else entirely. “Daysdream” (Jangleshop) is a 60-minute, 16-track epic spanning two vinyls (or one packed CD, as well as being available digitally). In simple terms, I’ll spell it out. If there was an equivalent to the school curriculum’s “required reading” list in the indie music world, this LP would most certainly make the grade as we head into summer 2024.

Contrary to tradition for many bands who peak with their first album or two, TSW has gotten better with each album. They’ve curated themselves well on the new record, successfully eliminating less desirable aspects of their song arrangements and instrumentation. Candidly, the songwriting quotient has also multiplied many times over on the new record, and despite being a hefty 16-song set, there’s nary a dud to speak of.

I’ve been listening to and loving the new album for months now, barely able to contain myself but unable to speak about it, save for three of four great singles I’ve reviewed here on this site. From the get-go I’ve been peppering TSW bandleader, Carl Mann, with questions about ”Daysdream”’s making and his take on the final results. Some of his insights have found their way into Issue 94 of The Big Takeover magazine that can be ordered here as soon as it’s ready to ship. There are more of his reflections woven into this LP review below.

While the new record is a lot to take in at once, ”Daysdream” is by design a dichotomic musical vision that came into Carl’s head early on in the writing process. The resulting LP is in fact a conjoined pair of mini-albums: “Days” and “Dream.” It’s written, recorded, and sequenced with “Days” tracks capturing an upbeat jangle-pop side of the band and “Dream” tracks leaning more dream-pop, shoegaze, and psych.

Making this effort even more Herculean, Carl opted to write, produce, mix, and master the 16-track LP himself over more than a one year period. He’s both proud of and intimidated by the band’s results, noting, “Personally, this album scares me a bit as I’m not sure how in the future we can top it. I literally got lost in a bubble making this record. Ask my wife, she’ll confirm this.”

“I Run” kicks off the record. Choppy harmonics start in before gleefully jumping into jangle-pop dreamland. It effortlessly evokes a slew of familiar sonic touchstones, from Johnny Marr’s arpeggiated Smiths riffs to sparkling melodies that take me happily back to 80’s bands like The Railway Children and especially The Close Lobsters. Contemporary “file under” janglers include Eyelids, Chime School, Quivers, and Stephen’s Shore.

It’s a little thing but I love how TSW sometimes crafts tunes with bookended notes, such that a song emerges and fades with a recurring aural signature. It’s here on this track and elsewhere on the new record too, and it has the addictive effect of making you want to start the song over again on and play on perpetual loop.

“It’s a High” (another single) was “a magical co-write with Syd” (Simon ‘Syd’ Oxlee; vocals/keyboards) as Carl recalled on TSW’s bandcamp listening party back in February. “He sang the verse vocal melody to me, and I loved it instantly. I think Booker T was an influence on the dampened guitar riff that runs throughout. I was playing around on my Gretsch muting strings and that sound just popped out. Reevo (Paul Reeves; guitar, sax) absolutely iced the cake with his saxophone parts he added at the end.”

Mostly up-tempo, the “Days” portion of the album is the equivalent of sonic sunlight. Beyond the singles, “Lady Luck”, “See Another Day”, and “Lost & Alone” are highlights. Strumming acoustics and chiming electrics are layered with wistful keys that are present but never overly loud in the mix. These tunes are unabashedly sing-a-long-in-the-car fodder. Song after song grabs the listener in an aural hug. As Carl says, “Getting lost in a melody is just one of the biggest highs I think I can experience.”

The “Dream” portion of the record kicks off with a bang. “Miracles” is perhaps the album’s standout track. It strongly exemplifies Carl’s intention to broaden the band’s music landscape, but its full resolution took time and some arm-twisting with bandmates to achieve. As Carl reflects, “The verse of this song we had during the time we made ”A 4 Letter Word”. I was never happy with the chorus we had at the time though so I shelved it for a while. About a year ago out of nowhere a chorus came into my head and it completed the song. I wanted to do something really special with this song and step out of our normal way of doing things. It took some convincing to get Mart and Phil (Martin Corder, bass; and Phil Elphee, drums) to wait until the outro before they came in on bass and drums. I wanted the song to slowly build in tension until that point and then let go into a big shoegaze-y instrumental through to the end.”

Carl told me (rightly!) that the song sounds like RIDE’s “Going Blank Again” had a child with Depeche Mode’s “Violator”. As Syd recalled on TSW’s bandcamp listening party, “It’s the perfect starter for the ‘Dreams’ side and sets the tone perfectly. Personally, this is one of my favorite songs that we’ve ever done.”

The “Dream” portion continues with many standouts. “Blues” (the most recent single) caught my ear with the droning 12-string guitars that kick off the song. It’s simple and effective, well-balanced with light bass and drums through the verses. “Loneliness” has another spectacular tear-jerkingly emotive riff, and the spacey keys and harmonies once again give the music a timelessness. “Monochrome” is so effin’ catchy. This up-tempo gem has a brilliant 60’s feel complete with a punchy beat and keyboard accents in the breaks. “A World Where We Remain” (another single) proves TSW excels in slower tempos. Lyrics are bolstered by twanging 12-strings, a dirge-like rhythm, blissful strings, and percolating organ notes that combine to evoke an eerie, apocalyptic feel. “Happy Now” is another haunting little melody that somehow sounds familiar on first listen. The minimal melodic structure is truly hypnotic, but the band keeps it fresh with an array of instruments and mix adjustments.

“Who’s in Control” is another stunner of a tune. Lyrically, it stands out because TSW isn’t usually political. The song speaks to the sad state of England, as the country’s politicians abandon its citizens, while imploring listeners to “get to the polls”. Syd noted at the bandcamp listening party that “as soon as Carl played me the demo I was totally sold. It’s been great to be able to explore a different side and sound to the band.” Musically, this one really evokes Lush (think “Light From a Dead Star” off the ”Split” album), with lilting guitars and bass carrying a spooky melody. The backward guitar solo is unique to the album and gives the otherwise gentle song some teeth. Syd points out that it’s a great tune to play “on a moody day whilst driving through the countryside” and I couldn’t agree more.

Carl gets cathartic on this record. He reflects, “So, particularly with this album, I found it very therapeutic because I’ve written a lot more of the lyrics, so it feels more personal. I think it’s the best way to create balance and get those kind of pent-up feelings out through an art form. I feel like that’s happened in heaps and so much on ”Daysdream” that it’s really been good for me as well.” The album’s closer, “Made in Heaven”, is a prime example. Clocking in at just over seven minutes, Carl says the song’s the hardest, most personal lyric he has ever written. Speaking of his father’s alcoholism, and Carl’s one-time fear of following suit, the song is a message to the young man he was. Carl sings, “lose the past and spread your wings”, and later the song fades into a gentle two-minute instrumental—a time to reflect on where he may be now in life as he just turned 50.

Listen here on bandcamp, where all formats are also available for sale.