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Review: Peach Pit releases debut album “Being so Normal”

Sep 22, 2017
"Being so Normal" Album Art
Photo by Kelli Anne

Photo by Kelli Anne

 

“Being so Normal” is the debut album of Canadian indie band Peach Pit. The band’s self-ascribed, “chewed bubblegum pop” sound appears on “Being so Normal” in the chill vocals and bright and prominent guitar.

The album opens with “Drop the Guillotine” – a song with a long history for such a young band. Since its first release in 2016 on the band’s debut EP “Sweet FA,” the song has been significantly altered. On “Sweet FA,” “Drop the Guillotine” had a stripped back, piano dominated sound. In the time between the EP and album releases, Peach Pit released live performances of several songs including “Drop the Guillotine.” This live version resembles more closely the version on “Being so Normal,” the main difference arising from the sleeker sound on the studio recording. Both the live and “Being so Normal” studio versions of “Drop the Guillotine” center around the guitar parts rather than piano. Notably lacking in the original version is the guitar riff which characterizes the song’s sound and is the key feature that pushes it to be energetic and interesting. Altering the entire atmosphere of the song is its pacing. The “Sweet FA” release is a slow jam – so slow that it feels unnatural – whereas the updated version has an electrically charged nature. This energy difference significantly differentiates the EP and the album. Where the EP consists of four mellow songs that are at most moderate speed, the album investigates faster tempos. Although more simplistic instrumentally, the original version of “Drop the Guillotine” has more expansive vocals. The vocals of lead singer Neil Smith on the album version are without flourishes and the backing vocals are barely present; slightly distorted and heavily layered vocals ran through the EP version.

A uniting feature on the album is Smith’s breathy vocals which maintain a limited range. The lyrics in Peach Pit songs typically have a story telling quality, but a monotony of sound brought on by Smith’s small range sometimes undermines their intrigue. The songs thus rely heavily on the instruments for dynamism. Title track “Being so Normal” is a reflection on a relationship that’s no longer what it once was. “Sometimes I can still see you, just like I used to. But I grew my hair, and you got tattoos. And man that’s hard to look through,” Smith sings. The physical changes reflect how they and their relationship have also shifted, but sometimes he can see her “just like [he] used to.” The song’s interest lies heavily in the dimmed guitar riff. The instrument sounds as though it’s being played in a different room, and in that way parallels the lyrics’ story of being at a party. In one “room” Smith is singing about a party he went to with a past girlfriend, and in the other “room” the party he’s singing about is occurring.

 

"Being so Normal" Album Art

“Being so Normal” Album Art

 

Peach Pit also released a live version of “Alrighty Aphrodite” over a year prior to its studio release on the album, allowing it to first gain traction on YouTube. The sound of the studio version is largely unchanged from the live version. The laid back verses and chorus are contrasted by the sharp guitar in the latter half of the song. The song is bookended at the beginning and end with a jam section. The opening instrumentals are led by the rhythm section with the bass placed in a forward position and the sharp clicking on the drum kit marking time. Although the track is mellow, it remains anticipatory due to full band rests. After the first line of each verse all instruments stop, adding a moment of silence and tension to the song. “Take a seat back in your clamshell,” Smith sings and then the music halts for a moment like its holding its breath before it again pushes forward. The stop and go occurs again after the line “Run your morning bath in seafoam,” which refocuses the listener’s attention.

The last two songs, “Private Presley” and “Tommy’s Party,” distinguish themselves from others on the album in that they develop different atmospheres. “Private Presley” leans away from rock influences into a more folk inspired sound. The slow song adds classical strings, softening it so that the screeching, distorted guitar in the outro contrasts severely. “Tommy’s Party” highlights Smith’s vocals. The vocals are louder than all the other instruments and the backing vocals which swell behind the lead line give the song dimension. It echoes “Alrighty Aphrodite” in its use of rests which halt and then push along the bouncing rhythm.

Peach Pit’s debut album “Being so Normal” establishes the chewed bubblegum pop sound that its EP first suggests. Smith’s vocals give the album a hazy, washed out vibe. Unfortunately, their monotony allows them to sink backwards thus detracting from the impact of the lyrics. However, the album finds strength in its instrumental variability. The album is dominated sonically by electric guitar which sets up the sound of each song, but the bass and drums hold their own – distinguishing songs that would otherwise melt together.

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September 2017: Willie Nelson “And Then I Wrote”

Aug 22, 2017

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It took Willie Nelson a couple years to find his footing in the songwriting world. After moving to Nashville in 1960, searching for a label to sign him, Nelson ended up joining ranks in the publishing company, Pamper Music. Following Faron Young’s rendition of Nelson’s “Hello Walls”, other original compositions began to get picked up by other artists, including Roy Orbison (“Pretty Paper”), Billy Walker (“Funny How Time Slips Away”) and of course Patsy Cline’s cut of “Crazy”.

By mid-August 1961 Nelson had signed with Liberty Records and began taking these songs of his into the studio for his own record. …And Then I Wrote is a round up of 12 of his most famous songs of the time, tracked during the late summer of 1961 in Nashville and Los Angeles.

We are so excited to spotlight this excellent reissue from Jackpot Records, putting back into print one of the all time greats’ debut fit for every music lover’s collection.

Learn More about this month’s vinyl.

 

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Win a Signed Coco Hames Test Pressing!

Mar 28, 2017

Coco Giveaway

Coco Hames’ solo debut is the Keepers vinyl of the month for April 2017. To celebrate the release, we are giving away this signed Coco Hames test pressing along with a prize pack of Merge Records and goodies!

The Prize

  • Coco Hames test pressing signed by Coco Hames
  • Merge slipmat (design by A Giant Dog)
  • Merge knit cap
  • Various Merge roster pins, buttons and stickers

How to Enter

Sign up for Keepers Email Updates here and be automatically entered in:


The Winner

A winner will be chosen at random on April 11th to win the whole dang thing. We’ll send an email out announcing the winner when the time comes. Simple as that.

4/11 Update: Congratulations to Brian C. in North Carolina who won the test pressing and prize pack!

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Spotlight: Coco Hames

Mar 24, 2017

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Coco Hames: songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, collaborator, band leader.

Best known as frontwoman for the LA-based garage-pop combo The Ettes, Hames along with her group released five critically-acclaimed records, leaving a lasting impression on the underground scene of the aughts.

Following a breakup of the band in 2011, Hames, now relocated to Nashville, shifted her focus away from music for a time, though not entirely. In the in-between then and now time, her songs found their way onto the soundtracks for ABC’s Nashville and Disney’s Wander Over Yonder. In early 2011 Hames and Greg Cartwright paired up as The Parting Gifts for Strychnine Dandelion. And in 2015 Hames joined the touring line-up of the New Pornographers in support of their release Brill Bruisers.

A year later in the summer of 2016 Hames began working on her solo debut, back in Nashville with album co-producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) and enlisting some of her longtime friends, including Jack Lawrence, Julian Dorio, Dave Amels, and Adam Meisterhans.

“Working with a totally different crew of players with no limits… it was like a dream,” says Hames. “Or something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—I was able to let my imagination totally run wild. Anything I wanted, we could do… and we did.”

In addition to Coco Hames as the record of the month, Hames will share with us her top influences, the records that have influenced her sound and the ones she holds dear.

Join Keepers today to receive Coco Hames on limited edition opaque green vinyl along with a roadmap filled with the albums that inspire Coco.

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The Ettes

The Parting Gifts

On Tour with The New Pornographers

Coco Hames

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April 2017: Coco Hames Self-titled Solo Debut

Mar 20, 2017

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“I grew up listening to ’60s pop like Dusty Springfield, but also classic country music, like Patsy Cline, and things that bridged both worlds, like Bobbie Gentry…With this record, the end result doesn’t fit into any one category. Which is an exciting thing to me.”

Coco Hames self-titled solo debut is our vinyl for April

You know her as the frontwoman of The Ettes and now Coco Hames has at long last completed her debut solo record, coming out at the end of this month on Merge Records.

Co-producing at the Bomb Shelter in Nashville with Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff), Hames got out of her comfort zone. “It was this massive leap of faith for me…After being in a band for so long, this time I was on my own—no gang to hide behind or fall back on.”

Guesting on the record, a veritable powerhouse of Nashville secret weapons including Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs), Julian Dorio (The Whigs), Adam Meisterhans (The Weight), Dave Amels (Reigning Sound), and vocalists Carey Kotsionis (Bobby Bare, Jr.) and Lillie Mae Rische (Jack White).

More info on this month’s vinyl.

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March 2017: Marisa Anderson + “Liege & Lief”

Feb 21, 2017

Liege & Lief

Curator: Marisa Anderson
Vinyl: Fairport Convention – Liege & Lief

Masterful guitarist and boundary-stretching composer Marisa Anderson curates March with Fairport Convention’s 1969 Liege & Lief.

“I was years away from playing electric guitar, and couldn’t completely relate to all of the song treatments, but I recognized the excitement of finding new ways to present ancient material, and Sandy Denny’s vocals combined with fiddle tunes and haunting story songs drew me in.”
– Marisa Anderson (liners excerpt)

Learn more about this month’s vinyl.

Sign up to receive Liege & Lief on vinyl along with Marisa Anderson’s exclusive liner essay.

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Expand your vinyl collection with tried and true records recommended by today's most inspired artists.

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