Bop English (real name James Petralli) is a member of the American band White Denim who released their first EP back in 2007, their latest arriving on the 25th of March this year. I find it odd that I did not discover them sooner, considering I have been delving into the Austin/Texas music scene a lot over the past few years; Ume, Girl in a Coma and Gary Clark Jr are three such artists that I have come to adore from this periphery of the music industry, among others, yet White Denim continued to elude me. But not Bop English – not anymore.
His only solo release so far is the album Constant Bop (released in 2015), the title of which perfectly captures the sense of fun and energy that this album of eclectic, happy songs induces. Though the total run time comes to a mere 30 minutes, I would say that it is one of the best half hours of music that you could treat yourself with this year. It is free flowing creativity at its best: the rhythms and mixes of genre emphasise the talents of Petralli – described by the Guardian as a “rhythm alchemist” – and will leave you astounded by the experience of thick, sonically spectacular grooves that it conveys.
Every single one of this masterpiece of an album’s ten songs could have an individual article written about them, the complexity of their composition sorely tempting to explore… but I will try to restrain myself.
Constant Bop opens with one of the most upbeat and enjoyable piano introductions that I have ever heard, giving the listener a tiny glimpse of the thrills that are yet to come. Petralli begins to sing in a bluesy tone and melody that compliments the rush of instrumentation, counterbalancing the excitement with soothing vocals like gentle brush strokes across the thick lacquer of taut musicianship.
The subject matter of the opening track ‘Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control)’ is anything but cheery, depicting depression with the harsh crunch of guitar licks, but the song itself is one of the catchiest and happiest tracks on the album, due in no small part to the bouncy piano and dancing vocals acting as the song’s only real foundations. The additional vocals that come in later are reminiscent of classic motown/swing/big band sounds – this aspect of experimentation is the main reason that I am now addicted to this record… because it is simply effortless.
My favourite track on the album is ‘Trying’, a song about the totally non-sensical act of falling in love (I mean seriously, it almost always leads to heartbreak guys, what’s the point?), and it is genuinely one of the most memorable tunes of recent times. The bassline is ludicrously smooth, moving along beside an acoustic guitar strumming beneath Petralli’s signature Bop layering and vocals on top. Where this song really shines, however, is during the outro to the choruses where one hell of a cool riff blares through the mix.
Bop English has quickly become my new favourite artist of the month, and I have been raving about him and telling everyone I know to listen to his work – this obviously extends to you as well, dear reader. This is pop music at its finest and, as Petralli himself states in ‘Trying’: “I wasn’t trying to fall in love”.
But, of course, you never do – it just happens. Check ‘em out.