Manuela’s self-titled debut album is a tuneful, playful and tirelessly fun arrival that takes familiar off-kilter pop forms and cleverly twists them into fresh new shapes. Recorded at Nick’s studio in Hackney, London called Sausage and co-produced by Sebastian Kellig, it features guest players and friends old and new including Jim Dixon (Django Django), William Reese (Mystery Jets) and Roxanne Clifford (Veronica Falls) among many others.
Opener ‘Everything Goes’ is a slouching, slanted musing on the after life, introducing Manuela’s gorgeously understated vocals which have shades of Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier and Broadcast’s Trish Keenan in their delivery somewhere between spoken and sung. ‘Supermarket’ is a song about “the fatigue and also enjoyment of mundane activities” based around a slinky William Reese guitar riff, while ‘Farewell’ is a carefree riot of melody with its new-wave guitars and “you can call me anytime” chorus line. Written on an organ Nick was given by a church in Munich, ‘Silent Dome’ reflects on the end of a friendship through the prism of King Louis II of Bavaria’s relationship with Richard Wagner. ‘Cracks in the Concrete’ features an instantly identifiable scratchy, snaking Nick McCarthy guitar line, surrounded by analogue synth squelches and a nagging hook that’ll keep you punching play over and over again. ‘Invincible’ (a love song for Manuela and Nick’s son Vito), ‘March Against It’ (an instrumental jazz protest march for the new generation) and ‘Desolation Angels’ (an unfinished Box Codax song) are all highlights of side B. A dub remix of ‘Invincible’ by Nick and Sebastian closes the album, perfectly capturing the spirit of sprightly eclecticism, pop classicism and sonic adventure that gives this album such instant and invigorating appeal.