I love when a band you love has a new release out that you had no idea was on the horizon, but then you wake up on a New Release Tuesday, and there it is waiting for you to devour. The album’s title, Pe’ahi, comes from a popular surfing spot near Maui, and the first released single, Endless Sleeper, has been said by Sune Rose Wagner to be “…about a horrific near-drowning experience I had in Hawaii some years ago. It’s about taking risks in order to exist. The song features a lot of recurring musical ideas of Pe’ahi such as Old Skool breakbeats, exaggerated dynamics, unconventional song structures, staccato guitar picking, intense layered vocals, etc.”
For me, after a first complete start-to-end listen, I can feel the ocean in the ebb and flow of sounds on the album, the surges of high tide, the calm that is out there towards the horizon, the uncontrollable entity that the sea is.
At times, this album veers a little to heavily into the noise end of their sound, and less into the Velvet’s meet shoegaze meet 60’s girl groups, but there are definitely some stand out tracks that I already find myself attached to, such as first listen favorites Summer Ends and The Rains of May. The latter is haunting and lush, with this dreamy quality that makes me want to float in the water in the middle of the night, the moon glow above and the city lights off in the distance, with no thoughts cluttering my mind except to keep floating. Or maybe instead to play loudly while driving through the desert right before the sun is set to rise, the music playing as the day starts to unveil itself.
Kill! is reminiscent of mid-90’s Nine Inch Nails, which may be in part due to the album’s producer, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who has performed with Nine Inch Nails, as well as Beck and Air, and who produced M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.
Sisters is a grower of a song. I’m on my third listen while I write this, and I’m loving it more with each listen. I like the transition between low-fi noise and the dreamy interludes in-between. This harkens back to the comparison to the ebb and flow of the ocean I mentioned before. Killer in the Streets is hitting me harder with each consecutive listen, too, sneaking in with its rather addictive melody; an ear worm in the making.
I love that this album is full of complexities that unravel me a little more with each listen.
Another great Summer album released during what I am starting to think is one of the best Summer’s of music in years, Trouble In Paradise is danceable delectable music that is already getting slipped into gym playlists and mixes for Summer drives. This is an album that at first listen had me moving, and at second and third listen had me listening. There is a lot going on here, thematically, as Trouble In Paradise takes on cracks in relationships, temptations and infidelity. Not something you usually think of dancing to? Maybe not, but you will still be dancing to this album, nonetheless.
First listen favorite is most definitely the slow-burn of Let Me Down Gently. Though I love all the energy and dance beats of the majority of songs, there is something so sensual and beautiful about this song. I love hearing Elly Jackson sing in her lower register, it is stunning, her voice in this song. Let Me Down Gently is vulnerable, but there is a lot of strength and control to it, lyrically full of suggestions and not pleas. There is a knowing there, a sense of self, that is very sexy.
Kiss and Not Tell is the polar opposite, but I love it. There is an eighties sensibility to the song that her first album was layered with, as well. This is a tantalizing tease of a song, one that I would love to hear mashed up with Neon Tree’s Sleeping With a Friend, from their latest album. Tropical Chancer is another eighties flashback of a song, reminding me of Yaz and Wham UK! (let’s mash this one up with Club Tropicana, shall we?), Erasure and Bananarama.
My favorite part about this sophomore release? I love that the songs feel more real, more approachable, more relatable, and at times, even vulnerable. I love that the album feels like more of a look into who Elly is, and not just a get up and dance persona that La Roux originally put forth (though don’t get me wrong, I adore the first album).
Let Me Down Gently
Sun-shiny, Summer, warm pop sounds that could almost be power-pop, but tend to be a little too dreamy for that, Alvvays’s Self-Titled feels like the album I could imagine if Best Coast had been making albums in the mid-90’s.
Molly Rankin fronts the Canadian Alvvay’s five piece band. She has a musical history. She is a member of the Rankin Family, Canadian folk luminaries who have written and toured across the country for decades. She cut her teeth as part of the family’s band before striking out on her own with a 2010 EP; that solo project gradually picked up friends and nearby musicians and morphed into Alvvays.
The longing and wistfulness of Party Police (the title really doesn’t match the feel of the song) is my first listen favorite. At times the lyrics seem like diary pages sung out loud, at other times they seem like the fleeting and flying thoughts that go through your mind as you walk alone, letting your mind wander into wants and needs and wishes. That said, there is also an element of playfulness here; a coy wink among the wishing.
One Who Loves You is another dreamy-feel favorite. This one is already in the queue for my next playlist. This song reminds me of Sofia Coppola movies, and feels like it should be part of the soundtrack of her next film (it’s a take on The Little Mermaid, right?), next to a song by Air and one by Phoenix.
All in all, this is a Summer feel good album, perfect for mid-afternoons and lazy Sunday evenings, or maybe to play for some heavy make-out sessions in the backseat of your car, parked at the beach at sunset with the windows half rolled down.
When this album started, with an “Intro” (titled Intro) that seems to be a trend in album openings lately, I found myself checking to make sure this was the Rx Bandits I was familiar with. It is, and they are, as the second song, Ruby Cumulous attests to. Ruby Cumulous starts up with a definite South Southern California beach-ska sounds, think Sublime with a stronger bass line, mixed with some Common Sense, that carries through the majority of the album.
The next track, Wide Open, seems to borrow from some of the early 2000 Emo/Pop-Rock bands like Anberlin and Panic! At The Disco, with some mid-t0-late Seventies influence, as well. Stargazer continues with that feel, at times a little too much then what I was hoping for. Some of these songs are begging for a live show. Listening to the album from start to finish makes me wish I’d heard these songs in-person first.
The oddly titled Meow! Meow! Space Tiger and 1995 are both my first listen favorite, the latter a throwback to Rx Bandits earlier sound, which I will admit I was hoping for more of.
All in all, the album veers too much into the Orange County Light Ska/Reggae, when I would have wanted more of their more Punk/Ska sound, as they were back in the mid-nineties with albums like Those Damn Bandits (my favorite of theirs).
Meow! Meow! Space Tiger
Ready-made for radio play, When I Was Younger is likable and catchy and almost too pre-packaged for success. It reminds me of American Authors and A Great Big World, and a lighter Imagine Dragons. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to what is popular right now, but it can make the songs and the album a little lost in a sea of sameness.
That said, there are some moments that stand out from the Pop-Rock pack, especially with my first listen favorite, Caught Me By Surprise. I love the slow build at the beginning, and the melodic and catchy chorus. The Pac Man sounds in the background that come and go are a off-putting, though they seem to leave as quick as they appeared.
I Had to Grow Up is another early listen favorite with its dreamy and other-worldly start (though there is a static-like noise in the background during that start that is irritating). It is a mid-album intro that weaves into the beauty shot of the record, Lose Control, which is vying for that first position in my first listen loves. I love the guitar work in this track, especially the squeak of acoustic strings which is one of my most loved guitar sounds ever.
The album has so much potential, and is what I would deem “one to watch“, even though I prefer the less obvious tracks to the insta-hits, like album opener Second Guessing Games, which needs no second guessing here, this should be their first released single.
Waiting for My Time to Come