Complete Surrender, the third album from Sheffield-born, London-based Slow Club, unearths a previously obscured emotional power in the duo. On their endearingly ramshackle first two records, the 2009 debut Yeah So., and 2011′s Paradise, they came off as engaging but slightly insular, their songs played like notes passed between best friends. Bolstered by the production of Colin Elliot, they open up and acknowledge the outside world.
The album showcases Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson’s individual strengths without sacrificing band unity. Each track features a member taking the lead, the other offering lyrical and instrumental counterpoints. Watson exudes contented melancholy on sparse guitar track “Paraguay and Panama” and “Number One,” a piano ballad where Taylor offers a ghostly choral assist. But it’s Taylor’s vocal leads that are univocally the album highlights. The more nuanced of the two singers, she’s always delivered her lines with a care of a method actress. Here, she unabashedly bares her heart, her bombastic balladry hinting at Etta James (“The Queen’s Nose”), Dolly Parton (“Suffering You, Suffering Me”), and even Alison Goldfrapp (“Complete Surrender”). It’s her gut-wrenching honesty that truly draws the core out of the group.