NBHAP Rating: 3,1/5
[one_half last=”yes”]CHAD VALLEY
Entirely New Blue
04. Arms Away
05. Moon Under Water
06. Not That Man
08. Good Brains
Best kept secret
Over the past six or seven years it always felt as if Hugo Manuel was on the verge of a big breakthrough. Whether it was with his band JONQUIL or under his dreampop solo alias CHAD VALLEY – the Oxford-based songwriter seemed to have it all: the right buzz in the blogosphere, the catchy pop tunes and the right friends on board like ACTIVE CHILD and TWIN SHADOW who also supported him on his joyful 2012 debut Young Hunger. Still, despite providing all the potential Mr. Manuel still remained an insider’s tip for all those who enjoy smooth and soft dreamy synthesizer pop that isn’t afraid to use a bit of auto tune every here and now. His second full-length, Entirely New Blue, continues the formula of previous CHAD VALLEY releases.
Therapy in auto tune
The short intro track Understand hints directly in the direction Manuel wants to take us. An auto tune acapella sing-along that introduces the new simplicity that dominates Entirely New Blue. While Young Hunger and its predecessor EP Equatorial Ultravox showcased a multilayered idea of pop music which was pretty close to all that chillwave hype back then. The new CHAD VALLEY album feels a bit different. Yes, you still got the distinctive and slightly estranged voice of the British gentleman but the songs are way more reduced and also deliver a more laidback and even slightly melancholic atmosphere this time. One reason for it could have been that Manuel tried to come in terms with the break-up from his long-time girlfriend. True might follow the intro with familiar tropical Balearic flavour but adds a sad undertone to the well-known CHAD VALLEY recipe while Manuel claims ‘I know exactly what to do…’ The following Labasa continues this path.
Less is not always more
Contrary to Young Hunger CHAD VALLEY isn’t looking for the big breakthrough pop hit on Entirely New Blue but rather delivers a really personal and intimate-sounding selection of songs this time. Arms Away and Moon Under Water could have been big pop tunes but it feels as if Manuel didn’t force them into that direction. This new understanding results in the epic Seventeen, that takes us onto a six-minute long trip right into the clouds. Definitely the strongest and most personal song on this album which only lasts nine songs. While this reduced production is lovely new element in the CHAD VALLEY microcosm it also sounds less exciting and focussed than the previous releases. It’s still a solid album but just in terms of songwriting it’s not Manuel’s finest selection of work so far. Take two or three of the weaker songs like Not That Man or Good Brains away and would have been a solid EP but as an album Enitrely New Blue slightly fails to raise the same level of excitement previous releases did. Looks like the breakthrough is delayed once again.
CHAD VALLEY’s second full-length Entirely New Blue gives his Balearic dreampop a more melancholic and reduced undertone while also lacking a bit of his previous hit qualities.