There is something deceptively and very definitely different about Just Handshakes. Never has a trademark sound been more understated than Clara Patrick’s candy floss-sweet vocals. It seems counterintuitive that such an innocent and ingenuous sound should have the heft to front an increasingly raw, lo-fi indie outfit. But that’s what makes the band so intriguing.
Back in the early days, back when the band were called Just Handshakes (We’re British) and produced lyrics like “You will marry a nice man who looks like a Blue Peter presenter”, things were, in their own way, a lot more straightforward. Patrick has always sounded like a woman singing for the sheer joy of it, almost oblivious to the fact a full band is playing around her and an audience is hanging on her every word. Now, with some fuzzier guitars and some darker material, it becomes a joyously unsettling experience. And it makes the moments when she does allow her voice to stretch out and go for it, like on the genuinely sinister ‘Stick Around’, possibly the album’s darkest track, stand out all the more.
Meanwhile the music going around her has a transformative effect. Single ‘London Bound’, about that hazy post-university limbo, provides a beautifully iridescent beginning, while ‘Kiwi’ is positively grungy. Elsewhere the band acknowledge influences such as Television and Au Revoir, and it is definitely the lo-fi territory to which they default. Ultimately, though, it’s when Patrick picks out a catchy melody and the fuzzy guitars swirl lift her high that Just Handshakes really soar.