British indie pop duo The Boy Least Likely To reflect on their against-all-odds success with 'Greatest Hits' album
The essential listening compilation features the British indie-pop duo's most loved tunes and also features a George Michael cover and a new original song 'One Of These Days'.
It's hard to believe that British indie pop duo The Boy Least Likely To have been around for over a decade and a half now. Although they've put out only four studio albums thus far (one of which is a holiday album), they have successfully remained in public consciousness thanks to some of their greatest hits featuring in films like Adam Sandler's 'Blended (2014), the Emmas Stone comedy 'Easy A' (2010) and most recently, 2018's 'Peter Rabbit' which aptly featured their song 'When Life Gives Me Lemons, I Make Lemonade'.
But it is true. The duo of multi-instrumentalist Pete Hobbs and lyricist/vocalist Jof Owen formed The Boy Least Likely To way back in 2002, and now fifteen years on from the release of their first single and twelve years since the release of their seminal debut album 'The Best Party Ever', The Boy Least Likely To celebrate their against-all-odds success with the release of their 'Greatest Hits' album.
The 17 track effort is a comprehensive collection of the duo's most well-known numbers, including the aforementioned 'When Life Gives Me Lemons,' 'Be Gentle With Me', 'Michael Collins', Hugging My Grudge' and more. The album features one wholly original new song titled 'One Of These Days' and a studio-version of their cover of George Michael's 'Faith'.
That's all your Christmas presents sorted then! Our Greatest Hits album comes out on November 30th. 17 tracks from the last 15 years, including a brand new song, One Of These Days. Limited signed copies available from @RoughTrade here https://t.co/Nddye9kTUi x pic.twitter.com/bY3ZPwS4rB— boy least likely to (@boyleastlikely) October 3, 2018
Accurately reflecting the band's body of work, the 'Greatest Hits' album has all the signatures of a TBLT compilation - tinkling xylophones, rattling vibraslaps, reed instruments that you can't quite place a finger on (is that a pan flute on the George Michael cover?), groovy basslines, bubbly synths and jangly acoustic riffs peppered all around.
The album rightly opens with their best known single 'Be Gentle With Me', and as the playful xylophones open up to Owen's vocals, you're suddenly transported to a happier time - to 2005 actually, which saw the release of their debut album 'The Best Party Ever'.
The tinkling riff is a blast of ridiculous happiness, a sign of what's to follow for the next hour and three minutes. This blends into yet another 'The Best Party Ever' highlight, the curiously titled 'I'm Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon To Your Star'. With its fine mix of country styled jangling guitars and poppy synthesizers, it's another reminder of the good ol' days as Owen open with the line "I was young and I was stupid, I had just turned seventeen / I took my hits on a dumb road trip to Nashville Tennessee", before hilariously singing about how he packed his mouth organ, antihistamines and "Tupperware drums" in a "canvas covered wagon stuff with apples and with guns!"
The bittersweet 'A Balloon on a Broken String' touches upon melancholic lyrics as the album picks up the tempo with tight programmed drums, still keeping the merry melodies rolling. Owen's witty lyrics continue to grab attention.
"And I know I look shiny and bouncy / But I'm all empty inside," he sings on the chorus. There's a nice touch added to the outro of the song as the song emulates the sound of a deflated balloon zipping out of sight, and that's just one of the many subtle touches tucked into the clever production of the album.
Most of the first half of the album is from their debut album and 2013's 'The Great Perhaps', with 'A Balloon on a Broken String' being the only track from their sophomore record, 2009's 'Law of the Playground'. It's a smart choice as it delivers the duo's best stuff right off the bat, arranged beautifully to keep the energy and the tempo steady. The first half ends with the horror-comedy rock of 'Monsters', which blends an electric sitar riff into the mix as it pushes the energy way up.
A definite highlight of the compilation is 'It Could've Been Me', which features Welsh musician Gwenno Saunders on backing vocals. Her high-notes are heartwarming and contrast Owen's gauzy vocals beautifully and it immediately makes you prick up your ears. Another highlight is the morose-yet-poppy 'Michael Collins', which references the only astronaut on Apollo 11 who did not step onto the moon's surface. It's a cleverly worded song of lament and wonder that inverts an all too familiar historical narrative.
While Owen's clever lyricism stands out through the first half, it's Hobbs' instrumental prowess that shines on the second half, which opens with a fresh take on George Michael's 'Faith'. The modern production value and maximalist instrumental backing make for a great listen, and after years of performing the crowd favorite track live, the song finally receives the studio treatment on this album. The recurring vibraslap adds a nice touch to the feel-good anthem 'When Life Gives You Lemons', which uses the age-old adage rather cleverly with a folk-tinged riff.
At times, I couldn't help but think of early Modest Mouse material while listening to the album, especially a few touches from 'The Lonesome Crowded West', perhaps most striking on the rock-flavored number 'Follow Your Heart Somewhere'. Perhaps the one low point of the 'Greatest Hits' album is the sprawling length of the album. Although all the songs are radio-friendly cuts falling within the 4-minute track, the album feels a little drawn out in the second half. That being said, it's still a very good starting point if you're looking for an essential listening compilation to introduce you to the indie pop troubadours.
A high point of the second half is the lone original track 'One Of These Days', which is nestled deep into the far end of the album for some reason. With a Michael Jackson-styled beat accentuated by handclaps, a groovy bassline and what sounds like a mandolin, the new track fits snugly into TBLT's canon. 'George and Andrew' is another high point of the second half, with its 80s post-punk stylistics and crystal clear shimmering synths. The album closes with the aptly titled 'Fairytale Ending', which adds some interesting string compositions into the album. After a steadily building rhythm, the song bursts into a loopy, crazy synth interlude before finishing up with a flourish of handclaps and singalong chorus that gives you a glimpse of how one of the duo's live gigs would feel.
For longtime fans of the band, the 'Greatest Hits' album is like an essentials playlist certified by the band itself. And for those who are just discovering the maximalist pop goodliness of The Boy Least Likely To, the album is a perfect starting point that should encourage them to check out their less popular cuts.
The Boy Least Likely To's 'Greatest Hits' album arrives this Friday, Nov. 30. Pre-orders are ongoing.