On his 2012 full-length LP ‘A Shade of Orange’, Dorset based singer-songwriter Nick Capaldi championed a whole world of sixties pop and rock influences with stunning results. Whether tackling the R&B grit of ‘You Ain’t No Woman To Me’, the hard beating soul of ‘Read Into Me’ or the sun-filled, Hollies-influenced pure pop of ‘You As an Island’, one thing was obvious: he was an artist to watch. His follow up release, the 2013 EP ‘The Golden Summer’ proves that Capaldi is more than just a one-shot deal, its four original songs equally as good as anything on the debut.
‘In My Shoes’ sets the standard for Capaldi’s take on classic pop-rock fare. The vocal filters bear more than a passing resemblance to ‘Coming Up’ era Suede – and indeed the bouncy confidence isn’t always a million miles away from their own ‘Lazy’ – but the music, more often than not, is a touch slicker. Although there are more hints of top-drawer Britpop via a vocal melody that is very occasionally reminiscent of ‘Connection’ by Elastica, it ls the slightly psychy 60s elements which eventually win out, with the wordless oohs filling the chorus leaving a sizable impression. Like London song-smith Mick Terry, Capaldi completely understands the power in raising the spirits through song craft and beneath the guitars, that sense that pop in its purer forms just cannot be beaten when done well. Continuing on a slightly trippy path, the electric pianos providing the backdrop of ‘Dumb It All Up’ are straight out of a power pop past, while the tunes hazy mid-paced approach really allows the strong chord structure time to shine. A new wave keyboard solo comes a bit of a surprise, but its edgy qualities are balanced out by a smooth horn section padding out the song’s second half. Power pop aficionados will obviously have heard plenty of music in this style before, but despite his relative youth at the time of this EPs release, Capaldi shows a broadening talent – one that could surely take on the like of PFR and Jason Falkner at their best.
In keeping with his debut’s forays into occasional heart-tugging, ‘The Right Time’ presents Capaldi’s more melancholic tendencies, as he cries and croons on a well-written ballad. No matter how strong his voice can be, the big emotional pull here comes courtesy of his backing band – the bass has a wonderfully full sound as it intermittently pumps out huge notes in waltzing time-sig, while the huge orchestra swells to grand proportions, complete with occasional John Barry-esque grandiosity. There are so many layers here, each bringing something to tease the ear; the lavish production throughout allows each to really stand out. In short, this is something special. ‘First of the Runaways’ uses the previous orchestration in a more sedate manner, allowing the whole band to step up their game. This multi-layered piece of power pop shows Capaldi to be both a great songwriter and arranger, mixing his huge talent with influences from Jon Auer, Squeeze, Jellyfish and, naturally, a hefty dose of McCartney. There are moments here clearly influenced by ‘I Am The Walrus’ and by The Zombies circa 1968, but shining above all the moments of loving homage is Capaldi’s own talent. Fans of classy harmonies and old-school electric piano/Fender Rhodes should look no further…and for the uninitiated, this track should be earmarked for your first listen.
While the UK release could be considered a fantastic four song EP, cult US record label Kool Kat have upped the ante: their official CD-R release adds an extra eight unreleased demo tracks, bringing ‘The Golden Summer’ up to a full album length. At least four of these demos represent recommended extra-curricular listening. ‘I-SPY-U’ is an upbeat rumpty-tumpty march, at first akin to early Oasis (albeit replayed by Squeeze). Its user-friendly bounce gives it a sunny power pop edge, a melody so strong that not even the oddball instrumental sections can spoil. In keeping with the track title, Nick has chosen to intersperse the pop moments with a quirky tune that sounds like the unfinished theme to a spy thriller! The jury’s totally out as to whether this truly works or not, but hey, it’s fun. A touch out of step with this releases pop tendencies, ‘Sign on the Door’ is a full on seventies rock stomper and ‘Urban Noise’ takes a similar dirty groove and funks it up, a la Reef. While neither tune is as enduring as the poppier offerings, they add a sense of increased depth to Capaldi’s work – he really is capable of performing in a broad range of styles with equal ease…
Elsewhere, ‘All I Need Is You’ is a simple homage to sounds the US likes to call “British Invasion”, with swathes of early Beatles and Kinks a-plenty and ‘Dreams, My Love and I’ fuses sixties folk with moments of Elizabethan madrigal, with the blend of soft vocal, guitar and keyboards working nicely. When listening, it’s essential to remember that this is only a demo: in its present state, it’s still possible to hear the beginnings of something great, though the finished piece would surely sound slicker, perhaps with the rudimentary keyboard drone replaced with cello and the tinkling keys a harpsichord sound. [Once again, those looking to hear the bonus extras should note they are EXCLUSIVE to the Kool Kat online shop].
This is a seriously good release. As with its predecessor, ‘A Shade of Orange’, you’ll encounter a mix of styles, but Capaldi achieves great results almost every time. You want summery, retro, almost psychedelic pop? You want something that’ll bring a potential rival to the works of early Matthew Sweet, Badfinger, Jason Falkner and so many of your other favourites? ‘The Golden Summer’ delivers big style. Don’t miss it.