Cuba Cuba is a five piece pop rock band from Cardiff, who spent their last summer in the studio to produce their first studio album under current label, Walnut Tree Records. After seeing the band live last year, I have been highly anticipating their first effort at a studio album and with their album being mixed by Tristan Ivemy (Frank Turner / The Holloways), they were able to flourish and express their angular pop rock anthems. With such a diverse sound, it’s no wonder they have shared the stage with acts such as Friendly Fires, The Airbourne Toxic Event, The Joy Formidable, Funeral for a Friend and Attack! Attack!

Kicking off with ‘Building Blocks’, there is an instant feel of intricate detail as the track mixes up different elements of their pop rock persona through building the track up to burst into a triumphant chorus. There is a very positive energy flooding this song as front man, Morgan Isaac’s distinct vocal quality sends shivers down my spine as he hits each note with controlled flamboyancy and keeps me on edge during each verse.

Second track ‘Fifty A Night’ surprises me, in a good way of course as I am used to hearing more edgy songs in Cuba Cuba’s back catalogue. I am greeted by reverb soaked xylophone sequences as a subtle charm emerges. The continuing variation of their front man’s vocal pitch reminds me of the vocals of Owl City. ‘Outlines’ explores a more pop fuelled side to this record with an atmospheric synth bringing this track into its own brand of pop rock. The soaring vocals continue to flourish as strong bass lines build up into a surging breakthrough. ‘Golden Grounds’ is a familiar song to me as it was a bonus track on a former single for upcoming track ‘Home Is The Fire’. The recording quality and new experience of the band has stepped this track up a notch and the chorus rings through my ears and I can’t help but smile at the lyric, ‘life is just a simulation’, which I love. ‘We Rode’ continues the pattern of epic choruses, but there are new elements to this track which mean the diversity of this record continues to thrive.

‘Hong Kong’ is next as seeping guitar notes meet the familiar sounds of a xylophone to create the build up which eventually merges with the drums and bass to break into a chorus which seems to have a different style to what I expected. This track still displays effortlessly flawless vocals with a rich, atmospheric sound as there are different sounds surrounding me, and somehow they manage to complement each other perfectly.

‘Home Is The Fire’ was released as a single by the band last year and they used the same recording as the single for the album, and with good reason. I love this track. Infact, it has a bucket of plays on my iTunes. This is because this track stands out to me as a very unique, energy fuelled pop rock gem. There is a slow build up which leads into a strong one note synth pattern to slide into an infectious chorus. The slowing down of the track later on shows the character of this band as they are able to mix up the tempo of their tracks to keep the listener begging for more. ‘Away Part 1’ is a more laid back part of this record, with the bands front man hitting the high notes to send shivers back down my spine once again. There is a very chilled quality to this song, which is probably hinted by the annotation that it is ‘Part 1’ with the recurring lyric, ’we’re not getting through to you’ adding a ‘to be continued’ hint.

The next track, ‘Pride Rock’ starts with choral vocals to yet again mix up the elements of this record. It seems like the end of this record will consist of the more laid back songs as there is a smooth indie quality to this track. ‘Depth’ does what it says on the tin. This track basically sums up all the elements from the previous tracks with the presence of indie guitar riffs, atmospheric synth and haunting vocal quality. Eventually, the track breaks into a guitar riff reminiscent of Coldplay. The final track ‘Away Part 2’, builds a level of expectation as ‘Part 1’ left me wanting more. This track features Tiger Please front man, Leon Stanford who harmonises excellently with Morgan Isaac to create a smooth sounding build up. Eary guitar notes and soft piano tones flood me with tension. Eventually, the repeating lyric of ‘Keep To The Road’ fills me up with a sense of pride. There is a very strong emotional touch to this song and I find myself reflecting on just how good this album is, as the track eventually dies down to come to an end.

Cuba Cuba effortlessly display many qualities of the greats in this record and I have no doubt that this album should be considered one of the best of this year. There is no escaping from this bands infectious sound and with the summer approaching; they will be on cloud nine as their journey to the top of their genre has only just begun.

Make sure you see Cuba Cuba play with fellow Walnut Tree Records band, Tiger Please at iBar on the 22nd July.

Cuba Cuba are:
Morgan Isaac – Vocals, Guitar, Keys
Danny Owen – Keys, Guitar, Vocals
Sion Fenwick – Guitar, Vocals
Mike McCabe – Bass, Vocals
Lewys Isaac – Drums, Vocals

Track listing
1. Building Blocks
2. Outlines
3. 50 a Night
4. Golden Grounds
5. We Rode
6. Hong Kong
7. Home is The Fire
8. Away (pt 1)
9. Pride Rock
10. Depth
11. Away (pt 2) (feat. Leon Stanford of Tiger Please)

Words by George Fullerton

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