Chad Valley

Young Hunger

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After his earlier well-received EPs, Chad Valley's full-length debut in 2012 came hot on the heels of a swirl of attention -- both positive and negative -- for the putative style he and others have worked in. Whether by an accident of timing or something in the water in general, the British singer and many of the collaborators who appear on Young Hunger have been tagged as some form of indie R&B -- compared, and not always favorably, with any number of African-American performers, whether Ne-Yo, The-Dream, Miguel or perhaps most tellingly, Kanye West in his 808s and Heartbreak mode. If anything, though, this distinction is something that ends up boxing all the performers in -- better a world where many different musicians have no fear of using electronic arrangements to their own ends rather than yet another tedious version of realness. Valley's work, if anything, feels mostly lodged in the kind of serenely beautiful setting that Active Child creates, drawing on the dreamy heights of bands like a-ha and Alphaville. Little surprise that their collaboration here, "Manimals," which closes the album, is one of the highlights, slowly building into a stately shimmer, suddenly opening up even further with clicking beats and a perfect blend of their voices. With that as a striking conclusion, much of Young Hunger is how Valley gets there, either on his own, as on the surging stomp of "Up and Down," or with his many collaborators throughout. Some moments aren't the best -- his duet with Jack Goldstein, "My Girl," stumbles a bit at the start -- but such killers as "Fell 4 U" with Glasser and "Fathering/Mothering" with Anne Lise Frokedal showcase both his ear for vocal counterparts and his immediate, beautiful arrangements.

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