Tim Hughes says the secret is out for one of Oxford's best new bands, who release their stunning debut album

  •  Secret Rivals
  • Just Fall
  • Standard Tandoori

Call me jaded, but it’s rare that I get as excited by the prospect of a new album as by this debut from one of Oxford’s best bands. That it was handed over surreptitiously in a car park by smiling label founder Nathan Pyle, made it more thrilling.

What Just Fall does perfectly is capture that sexy male-female tension that makes Secret Rivals gigs such compulsive spectacles. Alternately smooth and shouty, slick and disjointed, you never know quite where it’s going to take you. At times it’s a heartfelt break-up manifesto between guitarist/singer Jay Corcoran and synth-player/ singer Claudia ‘Clouds’ Saez, giving it a confessional fly-on-the-wall quality and affording the listener an illicit voyeuristic thrill. At other times it’s just a good-old synth-pop/post-punk stomp – driven headlong by a super-tight rhythm section powered by drummer Reece Chapman and bassist Andy Beill.

No one can switch from brooding hurt to bubbling joie de vivre quite like Secret Rivals. Sparse instrumentation gives way to strident riffs, which, in turn, dissolve into jagged, guitar work, taught drum breaks and vitriolic vocal stabs. There is too much going on to even begin to get bored. They may not realise it but Secret Rivals have released one of the best things this year. That it was funded by a crowd-sourcing campaign that saw them sweating for every penny, makes it all the more delicious.

Shout it from the rooftops: the secret is out!