London indie-pop outfit, KAWALA, have just released their debut album, Better With You. A triumphant first record, if you’re into sunny indie-pop, this is the album for you. Brimming with earworms and sunny acoustic guitars, the London band have a crossover appeal that is genuinely limitless, and you can see this being the start of a very long journey to superstardom for the London group.
KAWALA originated when vocalist Jim Higson and guitarist/vocalist Daniel McCarthy were studying in Leeds and realised that they ought to be pursuing a musical career. They returned to their hometown of London and added Reeve Coulson on bass, Dan Lee on electric guitar and Ben Batten on drums. They then released their debut EP, D.I.L.Y.D, in 2018, which gained plaudits from across the music world, an indicator of things to come.
The band then rose quickly to become one the hottest prospects in British music, consistently churning out hooky tracks, confirming Higson and McCarthy as two of the best songwriters in this new wave of British acts.
When they first started out, they described their music as “indie meets folk meets afrobeat”, and on the new album, they stick to that recipe but augment it with some luscious production and experimentations with textures.
From start to finish, it’s pocket-sized anthem after pocket-sized anthem. KAWALA aren’t ones for dragging it out, but it works. In truth, it wouldn’t be their style to elongate songs past the four-minute mark. Given that Higson and McCarthy are so integral to the band, it is their songwriting that guides everything they do, and this is why Better With You works so well. There’s no mucking about.
The pair deliver quality time and time again, and it works. Their formula is clear, it’s driven by McCarthy’s underrated acoustic guitar work, but this is their USP. You can tell when a KAWALA song comes on the radio, a testament to the Higson/McCarthy partnership.
If you’re a fan of indie-pop, Better With You is sure to be a favourite of the year. Whilst you could criticise the record for being too safe, revisiting the band’s trademark formula repeatedly, we’d say be nice, it’s their debut album. What it does well, it does really well. It swaps quality of song for dazzling artistic choices, and sometimes that’s alright, as it is with Better With You.
You can expect to see KAWALA build on the anthemic formula that they’ve set out on their new album. Cuts like ‘Ticket To Ride’, ‘Jesse C’mon’ and ‘Never Really Here For Long’ are infectious, and given the band’s penchant for a catchy backing vocal melody, you’ll be pressing repeat instantly.
It’s not offensive nor abrasive, but there’s room for that in an era where music is so obsessed with being artistically groundbreaking or political. KAWALA are here for the good times, and we respect them for that. They know that things don’t have to be serious all the time, and added to their incredible songwriting ability, Better With You makes for an enjoyable listen.
The future looks very bright for KAWALA.
Listen to Better With You below.