16 Apr 2015

Charles Howl "Sir Vices"

Reviewed by Maggie Danna

Charles Howl blends driving rock and acoustic sentiments with a feel-good vibe and nostalgic dreaminess in their latest release, and first LP, "Sir Vices". Originally started as a side project of The Proper Ornaments, Charles Howl certainly stands out now with its own unique sound. Subtly psychedelic, Sir Vices contains hints of diverse genres ranging from West Coast 1960s rock and jangle pop to 1980s British rock, shoegaze, and folk. Baroque instrumentals and orchestral splendour are also prominent and certain parts of the album really remind me of Jacco Gardner, especially on the opener, “Going Down With A Hi”, and “Sky Birds Blue”.

"Sir Vices" is both laid-back, with relaxed vocals and a chilled overall feeling, and highly dynamic. Instrumental interludes and backdrops including twangy guitars, sitar, zealous riffs, and airy reverb keep the album fresh and exciting and keep listeners on their feet. “Lunacy,” one of my favourite tracks, is a perfect example of this union; it’s relaxed but also has a great beat and powerful bass riff, and even reminds me a bit of the Beach Boys with its warm energy, upbeat chorus and lively vocal harmonies, and the theme of the insanity of being in love. “I Love You 47” is more energetic and gradually incorporates a slight drone as it progresses, adding yet another style to the diverse mixture. “Sighed At Me” is my overall favourite and I actually cannot stop listening to it. It’s dreamily melancholic with a gently ebbing and flowing background of sound and a touch of falsetto. “Peace and Quiet”, verging into dream pop with its simply vocals and bright and reverbed guitar jabs, is reminiscent of Fenster, especially their album "The Pink Caves". “The New Shade” has an intense, uplifting crescendo, which along with a pick-up in tempo really shows off the invigorative power of the band.

I especially recommend Charles Howl if you like The Byrds and Love. If you enjoy "Sir Vices", check out the band’s self-titled 2013 EP as well, as it is also excellent.

Sir Vices is available here on vinyl.

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