Despite his very distinctive name, the chances are that even by the time of this album’s release, you might not be over familiar with Coyle Girelli. The one time Your Vegas frontman began his solo career in 2018, and on his earlier albums, he explored a world of rock and pop that often sounded more mature than his years. Various tracks from his ‘Love Kills’ debut sounded like a pop-ish take on a Chris Isaak sound, whilst bits of ‘Funland’ follow up fused his retro heart with slight new wave elements and light indie influences that could occasionally be likened to The Killers.
This third (proper) album continues Girelli’s ascent and ventures further into an adult pop-rock sound, and at the core of the ten songs, you’ll discover some great, sometimes very commercial hooks that show off a great talent.
A huge leap forward from previous work, ‘Swim’ really shows off Coyle’s gifts for tapping into an adult pop sound. The track’s downtempo rhythm creates the perfect backdrop for a ringing guitar to deliver a circular riff, over which a warm bass and soaring vocal brings a rather forlorn melody to life. It’s like discovering a long lost tune from 80s starlet Black reworked by maudlin indie heroes Kitchens of Distinction, albeit with a slightly more modern twist. The vocal wastes no time in grabbing the listener’s attention, and by the time Coyle delivers the track’s sad refrain for the first time, there’s no doubt that this is one of the album’s finest tunes. It feels like being in the presence of a twenty first century radio classic, and proof that good pop-rock need not be flashy, or even original sounding; it just needs to be performed with absolute conviction. When it comes to that kind of confidence, this guy has it by the bucket load. A shift even further towards a commercial sound during ‘The Girl’ finds Coyle brandishing a solid set of acoustic guitar chords which he sets against a great pop-rock tune. With a subtle electric guitar adding a ringing sound in the rear and a great mid-tempo rhythm in hand, this could pass as ‘Songs of Innocence’ album fare for U2. Here, of course, it rises above its simple musical origins, sounding so much better than any filler. In fact, the melodic jangle is perfect for a warm vocal throughout, and a very retro lead guitar provides a link with the solid pop of this album and bits of the previous ‘Love Kills’.
Also very commercial, ‘So Predictable’ opens with a grand melody where ringing guitars soar above a chunky rock-pop backdrop, with a hint of Snow Patrol somewhere at its centre. Dropping into the verses, things quieten just enough for Girelli’s natural vocal to take centre stage. He sounds like a distant cousin of Jim Kerr as mumbles through a slightly angsty verse and rises into a hugely melodic chorus, but whether steering a softer pop rock melody or delivering one of the track’s bigger hooks, he’s in great voice. It’s a minor point, but it’s a pity that when in possession of something so radio-friendly, that Coyle would choose to weigh down the chorus with a lyrical f-bomb. The sweariness makes this an odd choice for one of the pre-release singles, even though traditional radio play isn’t as important as it once was. In the context of the album, of course, it doesn’t spoil an otherwise strong number too much, and from a purely melodic perspective, it’s still one of those songs where Girelli’s compositional gifts really shine.
Having already proved a knack for a commercial sound, it’s a pleasure to hear Girelli rocking things up just a little on ‘Between Us’, a tune where a rollocking acoustic guitar rhythm is augmented by a huge, semi-gothic electric guitar and some very 80s synths. Somewhere at the heart of the music there are the skeletons of early Echo & The Bunnymen, but as with the album’s best tracks, this performer takes familiar influences and makes them his own. In this case, there’s a youthful enthusiasm within the indie pop that really suits his louder croon, and even a nihilistic hook driven by a double negative (“I don’t wanna believe in nothin’”) feels surprisingly good. There’s a little more new wave shining through the title cut when the rhythm of The Cure’s ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’ underscores a buoyant pop number where bright guitars – almost with a dream pop tone – jostle above a jangly melody that, in terms of serving up something cheery, ranks among this album’s best. Armed with an instantly likeable hook, too, this is gold standard indie pop that even Ryan Adams would’ve struggled to match at his peak. Given how good that is, its a shame that ‘Real Love’ drags down middle of the album with a dreary workout that sounds like Adams trying to impersonate Jeff Buckley on a karaoke machine. It might’ve been hard to believe that such a dull piece of indie-ish balladry would come from the same pen that gave us ‘Between Us’ and ‘Museum Day’, but Girelli’s work has often been about variety, for better or worse.
Luckily the good outweighs the bad here, and the album also benefits from ‘Jane Tells A Lie’, which has a genuinely uplifting quality. It wouldn’t be a great leap of the imagination to expect something similar from The Killers in an upbeat mood but, at the same time, Coyle shows off more of his own distinctive talent. The track’s uptempo melodies and forlorn croon sometimes feel at odds with each other, but that contrast provides a stylistic choice that works. As the number gains momentum and he hits a few unexpected falsetto notes, Coyle’s vocal gains even more of a striking quality, but any showmanship never comes at the expense of a fantastic tune. In terms of alternative pop, it’s brilliant. A perfect choice for one of the album’s single cuts, especially since it applies more of that shimmering guitar sound against something with a new wave-ish quality, which – as already proven by the title cut – perhaps suits the musician best of all. In closing, Coyle changes the mood yet again with ‘New York Rain’, a lo-fi acoustic workout where gently plucked chords and a mumbling voice draw attention by trying not to draw attention, if that makes sense. Sort of like an M. Ward demo fused with a sketch from Springsteen’s ‘Tom Joad’ sessions, it’s the sound of Coyle Girelli at his most pure. It’s unlikely to be many people’s favourite track here, but in showing off the performer’s roots and giving a bigger insight into how his songs likely begin life, it’s pleasing in its own understated way.
You probably couldn’t call ‘Museum Day’ especially groundbreaking, or in any way edgy, but it features some very satisfying tunes. In many ways, it works better as a collection of tracks than as a coherent album, but what’s clear is that Coyle genuinely understands how a strong pop and radio-friendly approach can feel timeless. As a result, the best songs here are some of his strongest to date. It might not connect with everyone as a whole work – and it’s certainly one of those records where the highlights will differ from listener to listener – but ‘Museum Day’ is worth picking up for ‘Between Us’, ‘Jane Tells A Lie’, the title cut and the gloriously understated ‘Swim’. If you find yourself enjoying the rest, that’s very much a bonus.