Cardinal Black: January Came Close Review

While they may only have made steady headway in terms of artistic output, the overall rise of the self-proclaimed “oldest new band in the world” has been nothing short of meteoric. Building on the success of their debut EP, the Welsh contingent has continued to make impressive strides, selling out back-to-back academy tours, as well as performing in front of a hometown crowd at Cardiff Castle. Well-accustomed to life in the industry, ¾ of the band (Tom Hollister, Chris Buck & Adam Roberts) had previously ventured out to the States in pursuit of their dreams. Now back in the U.K. and working alongside bassist Sam Williams, the stars have aligned, as the Welsh outfit look set to achieve what they were always destined to do so.

A collection of songs inspired by their intriguing, and perhaps turbulent experiences, January Came Close is an album that embraces freedom and revels in all its warmth. This notion is explored as early as the opening track, “Rise Up”, where lead vocalist Tom Hollister can be heard powerfully engaging with the lyrics; “it’s hard to know about freedom, unless you ain’t been free”. “Tell Me How It Feels” is another track with passionate sentiments, as the emphatic production breads a heartfelt yearning for freedom, unity, and ultimately “a better system for ourselves”. Delivered across a more conventional blues-rock ambiance, Hollister’s soulful inflections provide a comprehensive sound, allowing him to express his deepest feelings to an even greater effect.

A theme routinely addressed throughout their poetic lyricism, a sense of liberty can also be assigned to their staggering playing style, which despite the band’s tight assemblance, each member is free to express themselves. Such is the case on the atmospheric “Ain’t My Time”, where Williams’ adept bass work plays a salient role in distributing a sense of warmth to each corner of the track. While the stellar production and remarkable chemistry are responsible for the overarching success of the album, they can be felt most prominently on the gratifying ballad, “On My Own”. From the graceful imitating melodies to Hollister’s rounded vocal performance, the track exudes an overwhelming sense of warmth, which serves as a considerable contrast to the lyrics regarding “cold November nights”. Perhaps the most intimate track on the album, Hollister can be heard reliving memories of becoming a father, as well as embracing the purity and words of wisdom issued by his devoted wife.  

With each member bringing their A-game, Cardinal Black delivers a comprehensive sound, which simultaneously feels both minimal yet complete. As 2019’s “best new guitarist in the world”, Chris Buck’s contribution towards this record is unsurprisingly outstanding. But while others in his boots may opt for an overtly flamboyant engagement, Buck’s presence is one of a supporting role, with his “less is more” policy bringing out the best of his fellow members on tracks such as their catchy, tightly produced debut single, “Where Do You Go?”. But on the few occasions, Buck does release the shackles, we are charmed with his intricate, multi-octave licks, such as the ascending riff on “Tell Me How It Feels” which transcends the track to even greater heights. Equally as impressive is the delightful fuzz tone which sets the opening track alight, all while surrendering none of the track’s coherent structuring.

Although tracks such as “Warm Love” and the closing “Tied Up In Blue” feature a hint of melancholia, the overarching nature of the January Came Close is one full of purity and elation. With all four members working together in harmony, a combination of their wisdom and musical proficiency has conjured up an enthralling body of work with immaculate production. Having embraced the historical challenges of recording at the famous Abbey Road studios, the boys from Cardiff prove their worth, delivering a polished debut album which certainly lives up to the hype.

 The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Rise Up
– Where Do You Go?
– Tell Me How It Feels
– Ain’t My Time

The Big Hit

– Tell Me How It Feels

One thought on “Cardinal Black: January Came Close Review

  • I agree with all that is written here, except the statement that January Came Close has ‘immaculate production.’ I don’t agree. Unfortunately, my take on the production is that the recording comes across as a sonic mish-mash. None of the instruments stand out. The drum sound is plodding. The rhythm track overpowers the solos. It is HARD to listen to… something that I have only come across in rare instances of recording. Really unfortunate, as they are a great band made up of stellar musicians!


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