When Hugo Manuel, a British musician who records gorgeous, satiny, R&B-tinged pop songs under the name Chad Valley, entered the studio to record his first proper album, he had two bands in mind: the New Jack Swing pioneers New Edition and the poppy English rock band Prefab Sprout.
"When I heard "Can You Stand The Rain" by New Edition, I tried desperately to write a song like that," he wrote recently in an email. "To me that is the epitome of intelligent pop music, and that is something that can be said of a lot of Prefab Sprout's stuff too. They gave me a kind of validation that there is a way to write clean, glossily produced pop music with integrity."
Young Hunger, the full-length followup to his compulsively listenable EPs Chad Valley and Equatorial Ultravox, doesn't really sound like New Edition or Prefab Sprout. The earnest pop songwriting and meticulous production — like that of his former tourmate Active Child or the Danish band When Saints Go Machine — recall and pay tribute to the clean, expansive sounds of the 1980s without feeling suffocatingly faithful, or oppressively ironic. (Manuel has complained about the faux distress added to contemporary 80s-influenced records: "80s pop albums that are meticulously produced, really big-sounding and precise. There's no room for hiss and noise on those records.")
Many of the tracks feature collaborations with other artists who are mining similar territory — Twin Shadow, Glasser, Active Child. "Before in knew what kind of album I wanted to make I knew I wanted to have guests, like a hip hop album or something," he says. "I wanted to be less introspective and so working with other singers and also with a producer made that possible. Also, I have a love of duets which i think stems from my early experiences singing in musicals[.]"
The collaborations pay off. The duet with American new-new wave singer Twin Shadow — "I Owe You This," which we're premiering here on Gawker — might be the album's best track, an infectious love song that spirals off into pure pop bliss.