Pearly have shared “2B“, their second single of the year following in from “Mellon“. The new single also comes alongside the announcement that the band have signed to Eto Ano records.
“2B” evokes that special kind of nostalgia in you that makes you dive into some of your deepest and happiest memories. The sweeping and glistening acoustics flow by like a breeze on a warm summers evening. “How do you Think for yourself, When she’s calling, When you’re wanting to be, Only you” they sing as they explore the complications of figuring out how to be in an intense relationship whilst staying true to themselves. Pearly continue to captivate in every style they choose to explore and invite you to get lost in the ethereal worlds they create.
Finding a hidden gem in music is like finding a new friend later in life. You wonder how you got this long in life without knowing about them, yet feel instantly comfortable and in sync with everything they do. The same can be said about listening to this album. The debut release from Italian shoegaze/ dream-pop four piece You Nothing.
The bands ability to combine various sounds and styles into one cohesive, enjoyable listen is at the core of this album. Whether your taste leans towards the heavier end of shoegaze with the likes of Slow Crush and Nothing, you’ll be immediately welcomed by the intense and unforgiving driving riff of opener “Identity”. With its post-punk centric beat and rapid fire breakdowns it cascades you into full motion with an immediate drive. Then moving into ever expanding sonic landscapes on “Reflective” that bring about elements of Beach House’s dream infused sound with added kick drum. There’s an underlying melancholy to this sound that washes over you like an old memory of longing coming back to you late at night.
They also lean into elements of slowcore on “Sonder” with a devastating brutality. As the guitar lines battle out to see which can be the most devastating, you’re raced along the sonic speedway to a heartbreaking conclusion. As lead singer Gioia Podestà repeats the lines “Try again, fail again” you’re left to wallow in the feeling of despair, each repetition becoming more and more engrained in your psyche. These contemplations of anguish are a theme that runs throughout the album. On “Waves” Podestà sings “I’m feeling like a stranger tonight, like stepping out my body” as she tries to understand truth both in herself and of another.
Perhaps the most exciting part of listening to this album is realising that the band are on the cusp of greatness as each member and part feels ultimately succinct and forever moving forward at every moment. Even on the slower, more ethereal moments of this album like on the 80’s nostalgia fuelled “Closer” the band still feels vibrant with every sound. Every element of a Top Of The Pops classic is here, reverb drenched drums, sparkly synthesisers and catchy melodies. But bringing it all together is the bands eclectic personality. And their ability to switch from sound and genre seamlessly and coherently with each track is their greatest asset.
There isn’t really a moment on this album where you aren’t enjoying every movement and sound the band shifts and curves between. They bookend the album with intense, driven and head-bang worthy cuts that assure you leave the album as excited as you are when the opening riff kicks in. The punk moments have you wanting to reach out punch a fist in the air as you nod along to the beat whilst listening on the bus. And all the while you’re left in awe at the bands ability to surprise and evoke you at every moment.
It’s overwhelming to think of how much the world has changed since Julien Baker’s sophomore record Turn Out The Lights. Starting out tied to the contemporary American emo scene of the 2010’s, Baker along with her contemporaries Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus have all moved past their slowcore, quaint indie folk origins and created instrumentally rich records full that have propelled their careers forward.
A phrase floating around on Twitter before this album came out was “depression, but with drums” and if i’m being honest, Little Oblivions fits that description nicely. There is of course a lot more depth to it than that but the added percussion, especially on tracks like “Bloodshot” and “Ringside” make you wonder what Baker’s music would have been like had this been the norm from the start? The percussion ranges from hard hitting acoustic snare beats and cymbals to minimalistic loops that you feel like were added in with painstaking attention to detail.
Opener “Hardline” blasts your eardrums with a multitude of vibrant instrumentation choices, coupled with Baker’s acceptance of regression and struggles with addiction in the lyrics, making this a strong track to set off the album. It’s the first gut punch of many on Little Oblivions, with lyrics like “I’m telling my own fortune, something I cannot escape, I can see where this is going, but I can’t find the brake”. On her first release Sprained Ankle she claimed that she wished she could write songs about anything other than death, and even if it’s not always literally about death, Little Oblivions in a way has become a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts.
However, the expectations ‘Hardline’ sets for the rest of the record are hard to top. When Baker relied solely on her guitar and subtle ornamentations in her previous work, this made her songs a lot more memorable. In this case, it feels like there’s almost too much going on with Little Oblivions for tracks to always necessarily stand out on their own. “Faith Healer” and “Repeat” are the biggest departures from Baker’s sound, and despite some hard hitting, self deprecating lines, the by the numbers indie instrumentation becomes more of a distraction than enhancing the listening experience. The gospel inspired backing vocals on “Favor” provided by her Boygenius bandmates work well in a more stripped back context, even if it’s because the acoustic guitar lead is reminiscent of early Elliott Smith.
Case in point, “Song in E” sees Baker reaching almost cinematic heights with lavish piano notes, each key hit with further deliberation than the last. It doesn’t need a full backing ensemble to get its point across and would feel unnecessary if this were the case. She holds nothing back expressing this desire for self punishment and validation through that rather than whoever she’s hurt giving her nothing in return, even if from the outside that seems like the mature option; “I wish you’d hurt me, it’s the mercy I can’t take.”
Fans who wanted a fuller experience of Baker’s blunt autobiographical ventures will have a lot to sink their teeth into on Little Oblivions, alongside being able to channel cynical viewpoints and criticisms of herself into a form of empowerment rather than self pity or cringe. For the most part Baker is strongest when the instrumentation is minimal as too many of the songs on here don’t quite hit the same consistency of quality, despite the earnest songwriting. This is her biggest sounding album yet, but doesn’t always manage to make a lasting impression.