Novelty Island channels 60s sunshine pop into modern disquiet on “Michael Afternoon”

Novelty Island is a new project from UK songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Tom McConnell that was forged in the malaise of lockdown life. During this time, he receded into himself and his home studio, recording almost everything on his forthcoming debut album How Are You Coping With This Century?, which comes out on October 15. His sound channels the kinds of music he grew up on; The Beatles, Bowie, Kate Bush, Brian Wilson – but infuses his own outsider perspective and kaleidoscopic descriptions.

The first song to be shared from the project is “Michael Afternoon”, a dejected pop rocker that makes no bones about its influences. From the opening line he turns The Beatles inside out by singing of a “somewhere person” while a tape loop rewinds in the background, and as the song billows forth on jaunty guitar chords and chiming background vocals, the influence becomes even clearer. The titular “Michael Afternoon”, rendered here in colourful cartoony strokes of sound, could even be another character who lives on “Penny Lane” or is a friend of “Lovely Rita” – but he’s even more down on his luck than anyone that Lennon or McCartney ever dreamed up. “He made the local news when half his family perished in a sarcastic disaster,” we’re told – no wonder he’s “overwhelmed with all these thoughts that he’s got a disease.” We feel for “Michael Afternoon”, smile when we’re told he “walks through rain clouds happily”, and feel torn up when he’s planning to jump off the ferry, and join him in wistfulness when we’re told “he’s hanging upside down over a viaduct of his memories.” Despite all the gloom in the words, “Michael Afternoon” retains an uplifting bob and undeniable infectiousness – which just makes this bumbling, down-on-his-luck protagonist all the more lovable.

Listen to “Michael Afternoon” on streaming platforms or watch the video below.

Novelty Island’s debut album How Are You Coping With This Century? comes out on October 15 through Think Like A Key Records (pre-order/save). You can find Novelty Island on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.