Band of the Day

2012.07.14

Jonquil

Intimate pop anthems perfect for dance floor epiphanies
I'll curl my lips around this drink and I'll sink away, piece our bodies back together tomorrow and soothe away.
lyrics from I Don't Know I Know

Jonquil was formed in Oxford by brainchild Hugo Manuel, who is a multi-instrumentalist, and singer-songwriter. The band was Manuel’s go at developing what was initially a bedroom-recording project. After several member changes, Jonquil’s current lineup consists of Sam Scott (Trumpet, Bass), Robin McDiarmid (Guitar), Dominic Hand (Drums), and Hugo Manuel (Keys, Vocals). Jonquil released their debut album, Sunny Casinos, in 2006, followed by Lions (2007), Whistle Low EP (2008), the eight-track mini LP One Hundred Suns (2010), and most recently Point Of Go, released in March 2012. The band has drawn comparisons to Vampire Weekend, Foals, and even Manuel’s solo moniker Chad Valley. They’ve toured extensively throughout the UK and Europe, supporting acts such as, Bombay Bicycle Club, Foals, and The Morning Benders.

If left to their own devices, Jonquil would have you believe the evolution of their sound was much more shrug worthy than it is. The bio on the UK group's Facebook page lays out the past four years of their existence in the most matter-of-fact terms:

"Recorded an album in our bedrooms -> Released an album -> Played a few shows -> Recorded another album in a deserted house - > Toured all over Europe -> Built a studio -> Built another studio -> Went to America -> Recorded an album in a proper studio."

As a short introduction to Jonquil, that works great, but there are a few important details they left out. For one, the quartet has moved exponentially forward in terms of their creativity. The band's first EP, 2008's Whistle Low owes more to the wandering spirit of influences like Animal Collective and Nurses.

By the time the group recorded its second, and most recent full-length, Point Of Go, the "proper studio" allowed them to wade further out into lusher, more dance-oriented waters. The jangle of the horn-inflected "Real Cold" sits right next to the African rhythms of "Mexico" (nice bit of cognitive dissonance in the title). And the two-part title track begins with nothing more than the near-falsetto vocals of front man Hugo Manuel before giving way to a full band shimmy replete with banjo breakdowns and scintillating harmonies.

The thread that connects the past four years of the band is Manuel's bruised heart, from which he writes lyrics that turn over plenty of romantic misdealings and easily understood explorations of pure longing. Even if the band would rather you see things in more black-and-white terms when it comes to their music, there are far more shades of grey - and plenty of other colors - splashed across their musical canvas.