Canadian singer-songwriter Colleen Brown first came to our attention here at RGM back in 2015 with the single ‘Soap & Denim’ which was followed by some low-key UK live dates. Brown was, by then, already a seasoned solo artist with a few albums under her belt but for us - here on this side of the water - it felt like the discovery of a new and rare talent. We’ve kept up with Brown ever since and now that she has a new full-length LP out (her first fronting five-piece Major Love) we feel the strong urge to let as many people as possible know about it.
Major Love’s self-titled debut has been released on Cowboy Junkies’ Latent Recordings imprint and is driven by a sense of fun and Ms Brown’s inimitable vocal which, as I may have said before, has all the dexterity of Joni Mitchell coupled with the raw abandon of Carole King. The uncomplicated, confident production, spotlighting hefty bass and chunky guitars give the songs weight and claws while the performances on the record are of a band who have properly found their sound and hit their stride.
Opener - and anthem to destruction - ‘Tear It Down’ is a lesson in not being too precious and the band’s loose, energetic sound is in line with that sentiment. As such, it seems to serve as the Major Love Manifesto: “If you don’t like what you have made/Tear it down, down, down and start over”. ‘Older Younger’ is up next and owes a debt to Elvis Costello & The Attractions with its deliciously New Wave keyboard, harmonised guitars and clangtastic piano. The irresistibly feelgood jangle-pop of ‘So Good’ completes the hat-trick of the opening numbers and if you’re not hooked by this stage, you definitely ought to check yourself for a pulse.
The moody swagger of ‘Toughen Up’ takes things in a slightly different direction with its pumping disco bass (courtesy of Murray Wood) and artfully placed horns from Brian Moyer. The dreamy, pedal steel-swathed ‘Motherland’ follows and the change of pace allows Brown’s voice to show more of its delicate, emotional side before the album’s halfway point.
The vintage three-minute rock ’n’ roll of ‘The Game’, ‘Eyes’ and album closer ‘Get Together’ add further to the sense that this is a band that have a well-established chemistry and are having heaps of fun. More interestingly for me, however, is the Brill Building quality to several of the later songs, most notably ‘I Can’t Wrap My Heart Around It’ and ‘I Love All of You’ which, with its one-note chorus, is songwriting at its most exquisite. It would be a crime not to mention guitarist Trevor Mann at this point, whose sensitivity and versatility across the whole record significantly contributes to its success. On ‘I Love All of You’, the harmony guitar line that chimes in time with the vocal is the edible glitter on the icing (which was already on the cake).
The Major Love debut has successfully married a soloist’s depth of songcraft with the charisma of a band having a ball. It’s a record you can sink your head into but it’s also one you can dance around the kitchen to with your two-year-old (if you have one) and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Review by Rich Barnard.