Joy – Nik Barrell (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

We approach that time of year again when supermarkets up and down the country take down the Halloween stock only to replace it with Christmas goodies. Endless boxes of chocolates and treats line the aisles, each with a variation of flavours and textures to help bring in the season of joy, which, ironically is the title of Nik Barrell’s new album; Joy.

Sounding like your favourite selection box there are sweet centres, chewy compositions to mull over and richly-layered musical truffles. All that is missing is a nutty one to get stuck between your teeth!

Brighton-based musician Barrell has pieced together a wonderfully rich album of sounds and inspiration drawing from 90’s indie, jazz, folk and a heavy slice of the 60’s soul that Amy Winehouse brought to us over a decade ago.

Starting off proceedings with ‘A Promise To Myself’, closely followed by impressive track ‘Take That Weight Off Your Shoulders’, you know you’re in good hands, the songs are subtle and enjoyable and have an air of indie about them, no intrusive guitar or drums but cleverly arranged songs. The 60’s Motown, soul influence starts on track 4, Start Again, and makes a welcome return throughout the album adding Hammond organ, jazzy-toned guitar and swing drum patterns here and there.

If the producers of the next James Bond film are looking for inspiration for their next theme song, give track 6 – ‘Lovers Are Free’ – a listen, the track drips with swagger and cinematic possibilities. ‘Joy’ may be a strange title for an album, with a name like that the album has a lot to live up to, it can either be ironic and filled with songs of depression or self-deprecating humour or, like is apparent here, it can be taken literally and be filled with songs that are uplifting and positive. This feeling of happiness peaks with track 10, which, to avoid any confusion of its meaning, is titled ‘Jump For Joy’, it’s unashamed and fun, a real toe tapper that is radio (and listener) friendly.

If you want your music to be rich,  multi-layered and crafted by good musicians and a producer that understand the importance of the permanence of a good recording, look no further. Grab a comfy chair and a handful of cheese savouries and give this a listen.

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