Stealing Sheep

Big Wows

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The third album by the London trio Stealing Sheep finishes the transition from brooding folk-rock to sparkling modern pop that began on 2015's Not Real. Almost the only thing that remains from their early days as a group are the bewitching vocal harmonies that Rebecca Hawley, Emily Lansley, and Lucy Mercer spin as easily as they breathe. Big Wows is a bright and shiny modern pop album that's full of bleeping synths, rubbery dance beats, and big fat hooks. The trio took their time crafting the songs and putting together sounds, then called in producers who had worked with artists like Björk, Christine and the Queens, and, crucially, Metronomy to help deliver the finished product. Metronomy are an important connection because, like that very fine group, Stealing Sheep are skilled at mixing the warmth of voices with the slickness of machines, and they write great tunes as well. Basically everything here sounds like an improved version of the pop sounds on the radio in the late 2010s, whether it's stomping glitter-ball disco ("Jokin Me"), down-tempo balladry ("Just Dreaming"), skittering electro-pop ("Breathe"), clipped synth pop ("Why Haven't I?"), or slithering R&B ("Show Love"). There's not a weak song or wasted moment to be found; the trio write with a lovely economy of emotion and have sharpened their hook-making skills to a very fine point. And it goes almost without saying that their voices are brilliant, both on their own and when harmonizing. They certainly prove just as adept at singing big pop songs as they were at murky folk-rock. The combination of their voices, the variety of sounds they whip up, and the skill with which they put it all together adds up to an ecstatic, sleek, fun, and endlessly entertaining album that works perfectly as an antidote to the sterility of much of the modern pop it emulates and ultimately puts to shame.

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