We’ve been big fans of Latvian teenagers Carnival Youth ever since we first heard them around this time last year. Since then, they’ve brought their sun-drenched folk-pop to a number of major festivals around Europe and received praise from the likes of Steve Lamacq, the Guardian and Huw Stephens. A sound that was made to be heard by big crowds in the great outdoors, we were excited to receive their debut album ‘No Clouds Allowed’ and had high hopes it could live up to the potential of singles ‘Words Like Birds’ and ‘Octopus’…
Opening with the classic Paul Simon-esque sound of ‘Never Have Enough’, the song is a joyous celebration of all the things we perhaps take for granted: ‘Birds tweet, rivers flow. Best friends are my family’. After listing some of the best moments from nature and humanity, the words ‘I’ll never have enough of this’ are repeated over and over again. With twee glockenspiel and perfectly played loud/quiet moments, the optimistic song ends with a clattering climax – and is that an accordion we can hear in the mix? ‘October’ follows with a more psychedelic edge and a killer hook. A song about teenage love (lust?) and courting that special someone, it also contains some direct, immediately resonant lyrics: ‘Take off your shoes. Dance with me, let it loose’.
The album isn’t all joyous and upbeat. ‘Moonboy’ has a Machiavellian and theatric feel that is distinctly at odds with what has come before it: ‘He played a piano he had made from dust, but all he wanted was a friend he could trust’. It’s intense and hints at a very exciting potential direction the band could take in the future. ‘Tree by Tree’ is far lighter and has a dreamy and airy feel with a song structure that respectfully borrows from Modest Mouse. The introduction for ‘Traffic Lights’ is altogether more tranquil with sole guitar strums, but thumping bass soon joins them with an ode to lost love that brings to mind a Franz Ferdinand pop hit.
We can hear the influence of John Lennon in ‘Seasons’, especially the lyrics: ‘Going Back and forth forever. And that’s how life goes by. In a hurry and stress and rushing around’. As the band sing in unison about how seasons change, the song ends with the line ‘But I’m still here’ being repeated time and time again. Touching upon themes that affect us all throughout the record, this is no more present than on ‘See the World’, a pummelling song that demands you: ‘Open your eyes’ and realise that: ‘the colour of the sea is not the colour of TV’. There’s also a striking sense of humour throughout the record, especially when Carnival Youth focus on the more mundane aspects of everyday life as on these lyrics from ‘Sometimes’: ‘Sometimes in life, you have to choose between waking up or hitting the snooze’.
The album finishes with the gorgeous ‘Akmentini’, a song based on a Latvian poem (translation of title: ‘open to’) that is delivered in their native tongue. It has synths, strings and an instantly hummable melody – bringing all the bands’ strengths to the fore. ‘No Clouds Allowed’ is an album full of instantly appealing songs that belies Carnival Youth’s tender age. Clever observations and marvellous melodies combine throughout, making it an album worth celebrating.
Carnival Youth’s ‘No Clouds Allowed’ is out on 10 July.