In 2015 there are more bands doing the dreamy-psychedelic-pop-with-a-side-of-shoegaze thing than there are clouds in the sky on a rainy spring afternoon. To break free of the pack, a band has to be either very distinctive or very good. The London-based Novella are both. While they touch on all the same inspirations and influences as everyone else -- Flying Nun, '90s bands like Pale Saints, the paisley underground, and, of course, the great psychedelic groups of the '60s -- they do a couple important things to differentiate themselves. They have strong female vocals, not wispy, girly ones. Hollie Warren is a powerful singer and she holds down the middle like a superhero while the guitars and keys swirl around her like unfettered electrical storms. Something that has as much going on as "Again, You Try Your Luck" or "Follow," with waves of sound and intricate guitar lines, could swamp a lesser singer. Warren sails through with nary a mark. On the quieter songs, the richness of her singing as it blends with the harmonies is pretty swoon-worthy. They also wrote a handful of knockout songs that sound like what the Bangles could have been if they had gotten weird instead of famous. The insistent "Land Gone" is like an alternate reality "Hazy Shade of Summer" that features some stellar guitar work and a bewitching melody; the drifting psych ballad "Blue Swallows" slowly reveals itself over a blissful six minutes, feeling like a collaboration between the Rain Parade and Lush. The rest of the album charts a similar course that balances chewy melodies with knotty layers of guitar and keys, dream-inducing slow songs, and pulse-quickening hypnotic rockers, ending up with a result that's very familiar but just a little bit better than most of the competition. As long as they keep making albums this good, they'll stay a step or two ahead of everyone.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra