Okay, this week’s New Album Friday album is a bit of a cheat because I’ve had the album in question for almost a week, but it’s simply so good that it deserves to be featured.
The thing about Zoey van Goey, as anyone who has seen their live performances can tell you, is that whatever they attempt they deliver with effortless versatility, a warm likeability and great musicianship. So, when I heard six or seven months ago that they were recording their first album my reaction was not a guarded “Well, good luck“; it was “Bloody great, can’t wait. It’ll be fab!“.
And, of course, it is.
I like lots of things about The Cage Was Unlocked All Along. I like the variety of song styles, the flow of moods that drifts through the selection like the weather outside a Glasgow tenement window. I love the production, the soft clarity of the interleaved vocals, the gentle tug of the rhythms, the weird background noises that don’t overwhelm, just colour. I adore the speech sample in the awesome, and sad, Nae Wonder, a song that manages to be uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time.
But what I like most about Zoey Van Goey is that they are a band who love to tell stories. Everything about this album reflects that. The album’s title is a last line that demands reverse extrapolation. The gorgeous fold-out artwork is packed with untold tales of youthful adventure, improbable escapes, cargo cults and much more. And the songs, the songs, the songs. Every single one of them a capsule of character, mood and situation. Opener, The Best Treasure Stays Buried, introduces us to a pair of criminal lovers (or is that lover criminals?), hiding their loot and going their separate ways until the heat dies down, only neither seems to be sure that they’ll see the other one – or the money – again. Following up bounces in We Don’t Have That Kind Of Bread, a litany of fanciful fears about what can happen when you leave the house (and no-one wants their loved one to be kidnapped, held in a cage with skeleton bones and held to ransom), but perhaps also a plea from someone in the early days of love to extend your precious time together when outside pressures are forcing you to part, however briefly. And that’s only the start of an album that delivers tableau after tableau like miniature toys encased glittering coloured beads, all the way to the quiet, perfect jewel at the end, City Is Exploding. These stories have heart. They can tend towards a certain twindie wistfulness, but there’s real humour here too and a healthy sense of the absurd.
Zoey Van Goey are already great authentic songwriters. This is already one of my favourite albums in years. And what’s exciting – what’s really, skin-tingling, fucking exciting – is the anticipation of What Zoey Did Next.