Following a few singles and positive exposure from the BBC and The Guardian, London's Childhood emerged in 2014 with their full-length debut, Lacuna. An heir to sounds of the '90s including the Stone Roses and shoegaze, they earned a following for an indie rock that was both dreamy and infectious. Three years later, their follow-up, Universal High, nearly wipes the slate clean, reaching back to earlier influences, namely psychedelic pop, new wave, and -- seemingly out of nowhere for the dance-rockers -- '70s American soul. It's no vague impression or stray funky bassline, either. Parts of the album (lead single "California Light," in particular) enthusiastically recall acts like Curtis Mayfield and the Chi-Lites, no routine accomplishment for a burgeoning rock group. Frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft and band don't stick strictly to the style, however, sometimes drifting into '60s psych-pop or, more often, reaching into the early '80s of Britain that's so fashionable in contemporary indie pop. "Monitor," for instance, is burnished with '80s sophisti-pop, while tunes like "Melody Says" and "Don't Have Me Back" make for engaging synth pop-soul hybrids. What's consistent here is the level of detail on arrangements and performances (New Romantic saxophone and vintage keyboard timbres included), which, regardless of influence, makes each track immersive and occasionally dazzling. Universal High was recorded in Atlanta with Ben H. Allen III, whose wide-ranging credits include Animal Collective, Walk the Moon, and Cee Lo Green. The result of this collaboration is a set of sophisticated, textured psychedelic soul and jazzy synth pop with no shortage of elegant grooves and melodies. The new sound may be a surprise, but it could also be the sound of summer.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson