Oct 29, 2012 Web Exclusive
On his long-awaited debut album as Chad Valley, Oxford, England based Hugo Manuel makes little attempt to veil his affection for the zillion-dollar, slickly produced, mammoth-sized pop albums of the 1980s; the results are as charming and imaginative as one may have come to expect from one of the blogosphere’s most buzzed-about artists. It’s obvious that Manuel cares passionately and thinks deeply about pop music and its potential as valid creative expression. You get the sense that when he thumbs through his record collection and stops on, say, Janet Jackson’s Control, he listens to it differently than most; he regards pop music as a legitimate and powerful art. Jackson’s a good example, too, since it’s apparent Manuel’s approach to production and arrangement has been largely informed by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis—the same dream team that invented, cultivated, packaged, and patented the unmistakable and enormous Janet Jackson sound.
Twin Shadow is featured on the soaring opener “I Owe You This,” and Glasser lends her vocals to the slow-jam lead single, “Fall 4 You”; sandwiched between the two is a standout track, “Tell All Your Friends,” where Manuel commands in his brittle-but-bold vocal, “Tell all your friends/Tell everyone/All that I can think about is you.” He places value in even the most mainstream tunes of pop’s past: “If you wanna be my girl/Then you gotta get with my friends,” he sings in an open nod to the Spice Girls on “My Girl.” Even the layered background vocals on the exceptional title track fade with a suspiciously familiar “Doo-wop bop/Doo bop.” Drenched in reverb, programming and swirly synths, Young Hunger is the full realization of the sound Manuel’s been refining as Chad Valley for the last couple of years, though it’s markedly less “tropical.” It’s also no more or less referential than anything else going on in pop music, and even if Manuel’s a better producer and pop visionary than he is a singer, Young Hunger is still a delightfully shameless, anthemic embrace of young love, keyboard wizardry, the ’80s, and the ’90s. (www.chadvalley.tumblr.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 10/10