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Big Deal, ‘June Gloom’ – Album Review

When you name your band Big Deal, it’s like a social contract you sign with listeners. You should either try to live up to the moniker or be so comically not a big deal that you fulfill the still-ample cultural need for ironic entities.

On their 2011 debut, Big Deal did neither. The U.K. duo failed to break through on any functional level and seemed like a band that had potential to spare but possibly lacked the will to push themselves to a “big deal” level. Still, there was something special about ‘Lights Out,’ and it’s a warm and inviting work to revisit. Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe sound as if they’re miles apart and their music is unsharable.

But beginning with the single ‘Teredactol,’ which dropped eight months ahead of this album, Big Deal seemed to have reimagined the project. Perhaps they’d grown bored with their own emotional subtleties, or maybe they were worried their audience would reach that same point.

The resulting album, ‘June Gloom,’ is a ripe blast of vocal, guitar and even textural hooks. Everything that Big Deal offer sounds vivid and focused, and at the same time, they retain the warmth that was ‘Lights Out”s one guiding principal.

Whereas ‘Teradactol’ foreshadowed fierce noise-pop, ‘June Gloom’ recalls something similar to the Joy Formidable, if you were to remove the obtuse lyrics, or Metric, if you could replace the synths with guitars. ‘Swapping Spit’ and ‘In Your Car’ sound so unabashedly big that it’s easy for the listener to forget there are only two people behind the music. ‘Call and I’ll Come’ doesn’t try to put makeup on its grimy features, with Underwood’s vocals barely in key and delivered with such a contrast to Costelloe’s that it’s like the two are meeting in the middle, one trying every trick he can think of to match what the other does effortlessly.

The second side features some down-tempo, old-school Big Deal, but this time, that approach serves as a foil, and songs like ‘Pristine’ are many times more effective. Likewise, ‘PG’ works this angle for a dramatic mid-track moment when the quiet is swept away in a blast of cymbals and fuzz. ‘June Gloom’ somehow manages to work this dichotomy into the best of both worlds. Big Deal still sound personal and intimate, but this is one record that doesn’t require a certain mood or occasion for revisiting.

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