Release Date: Jun 4, 2013
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
The early-'90s alt-rock revival was in full swing by the time Big Deal released June Gloom, and it wasn't surprising that the duo also adopted the trend. Their debut Lights Out already hinted that they had a fondness for that decade in its fuzzed-out guitars and the easygoing lilt in their melodies (plus they had a song called "Cool Like Kurt"). More often than not, the more explicitly '90s sound they aim for on these songs goes hand in hand with the full-band arrangements, which Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe often implied on their first album in the clever ways they layered their voices and guitars.
When you name your band Big Deal, you can elicit one of two responses: either people will think that you are, in fact, a really big deal, or you might get something sarcastic like, “Eh, big deal!” Thankfully, the duo of California-born Kacey Underwood and London’s Alice Costelloe fall more squarely into the former camp than latter thanks to the big, meaty alterna rock hooks on their sophomore release June Gloom. (Which is, yes, being cheekily released in the month of June. ) This record is actually a departure for the group: 2011’s debut, Lights Out, was recorded with just electric and acoustic guitars backing the dewy male-female vocals.
There was some surprise at the quality of Big Deal’s 2011 debut album, Lights Out, with the boy-girl dynamic producing doubts before any music was even released. However, Kacey Underwood (guitar, vocals) and Alice Costelloe (vocals, guitar) quickly demonstrated that they were much more than a gimmick, providing an album full of intimate and lo-fi offerings that left a lasting impact. The make-up of the pair’s relationship certainly added intrigue to their lovelorn lyrics about broken relationships, with many mistaking Underwood and Costelloe as a couple, despite a vast age difference.
The Anglo-US indie pair (Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood) return with more sweet, slightly narcotised duets, plus a new rhythm section for added grandeur – there are lovely, echoey drums that appear to have been recorded in space. The boy-girl dynamic was made for dream-pop with all its longing, ambivalence and deliberate naivety – every lyric here seems to witness the start of a love affair: "I want to be wherever you are/ Sleeping in your back seat is all I will ever need" (Driving in Your Car). The charm is, Big Deal are playing up to their mystery less than they did before.
With the shoal of boy-girl indie pop duos swarming in the wake of the White Stripes over the last 10 years, quality has predictably varied from the sublime (Summer Camp) to the shocking (The Ting Tings – may we never forget our folly). London-based Big Deal, made up of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood, carved out their own space in that niche field with 2011 debut Lights Out, a low-tech set of lovelorn melodies and grunge riffs that were refreshingly rough around the edges. The lack of drums lent its tracks an appealing amateurishness, as if the listener were hearing them for the first time through the walls of the upstairs bedroom.
For Big Deal, album two was always going to be a case of adapt or die. Yes, their acclaimed 2011 debut ‘Lights Out’ had some appealingly dreamy tunes, but it felt defined by the London duo’s gimmicks – their music featured no bass or drums, and their lyrics kept hinting quite strongly that singer-guitarists Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood were sharing more than plectrums. Two years on, Big Deal have finally hired a rhythm section and as a result of this new, more traditional approach have morphed from mellow to muscular.
This London-based lad and lady debuted as a drummerless duo on 2011's charmingly downcast Lights Out. Here they're a full band, splaying low-protein vocals over delicately crunchy hooks and tensile ballads. On "In Your Car," they mumble, "I want to be wherever you are/Asleep in the backseat/There's nothing more that I'll ever need." It's so cute you want to take them home and feed them soup.
Big Deal’s 2011 debut album, Lights Out, was a collection of songs so fragile and delicate that it sounded like they would fall apart were it physically possible to touch them. Trading vocals, heartaches and fading romantic visions of youth with each other, KC Underwood and Alice Costelloe—who’s only now just 19 years of age—created a work of beautiful, tender melancholy. Musically, these twelve songs have a slightly stronger constitution—especially the fierce feedbacked fuzz that underpins “Teradactol”—but that overwhelming sense of existential loss and wasted youth is as salient as ever.
British summertime, eh? When the sun first peeks out from behind the clouds, you pull out last year’s shorts from your wardrobe, invest in enough sun cream to last a year, and by the time you’ve organised a BBQ with all your mates… it’s gone. Every year.Big Deal have clearly picked up on this tradition, calling their new album ‘June Gloom’. And the first few guitar strings of opener ‘golden light’ would certainly have you feeling a little gloomy.