When I first heard Great Peacock's EP a few years ago, it felt like it was the beginning of something special - an inside peek at the beginning of the rise of an obscure band. 5 years later, and it still feels that way when I hear a new Great Peacock offering. The band's sophomore album is no different as the band takes a slight turn away from the gentle, melodic Americana and more towards the psychedelic, Americana-tinged rock.
The last output, their great Making Ghosts album, was everything we had been promised from their self-titled EP. It was a melodic outpouring of yearning tunes with Blount Floyd and Andrew Nelson's voices working perfectly together. The band toured restlessly off that album, coming to DC at least 4 times, I believe, during that time. Around the last couple of times the guys came through, you could hear something shift in their music. There were 2 acoustic guitars on stage, then there was one acoustic and one electric, then there were only electric guitars. The songs began to shift sonically and jam a little more.
On Gran Pavo Real, those new sounds are apparent with the opening organ-heavy jam of "Hideaway." The harmonies of Floyd and Nelson are still there and the heartbreak-driven tunes are still there, but there is a shift in the tone towards a Pneumonia-era Whiskeytown. But, never to fear, there are still hints of the old Great Peacock there - "Begging to Stay" and "Miss You Honey" being the two most akin to their previous album.
There's always a bit of concern with a new album from an artist you really like - are they going to hit the mark they were aiming for and if they do, is it the mark we're wanting to hear? Will they grow in a way that stays close to their sound but sees them exploring new themes and sounds? On all accounts, I think Great Peacock hits every note right on this Gran Pavo Real. They take a chance moving away from their first album and coming up with an even better version of themselves. They're bluesier ("Heartbreak Comin' Down"). They're subtler at times ("All I Really Want is You"). And, they're just all around better.
This is the kind of album that's just right for the upcoming Summer. It's going to be on my stereo all year long, for sure. There's a song for every occasion, high to low. And the music is rollicking and a damn good time. You should go buy this album, and then buy another for a friend. Then, go to every show these guys put on near you. Let's make the world know Great Peacock.
Gran Pavo Real will be released next Friday, March 30th and you can pre-order it at iTunes, Bandcamp, and other music outlets.
Fire Mountain's All Dies Down is my favorite pure alt-country album I've heard in ages. It harkens back to the 90s glory days of the "genre," bringing to mind the guitar pop of The Gin Blossoms, the addictive low-key melodies of Whiskeytown, and the edgy jangle of R.E.M.'s more country-leaning tunes. All Dies Down isn't stuck in that era by any means, but it certainly draws deeply from the well.
Lead singer Perry Brown has an affable growl of a voice that's versatile enough to drive heartland rockers like "Factory Line" or ache through the lush balladry of "Traces." Fire Mountain's sound is a big one - restrained, but full - with ample rhythm and crisp guitar licks. There's also piano (don't worry - it doesn't push them into easy listening territories) and it's a distinctive part of their approach, woven seamlessly into the songs.
The songs are the thing though. As good as Fire Mountain is, what they offer your ears on All Dies Down is much greater than the sum of parts. Love, loss, heartache, regret, finding your place, making changes - in their bio, they say (paraphrasing) this is the lot in life of being in your mid-twenties, but I don't know anyone who can't relate to the universal emotions relayed here.
Brown is a sneaky writer, both of subtle hooks and sharp observations. Lines like "How I hung heavy on your heart" from "Anchor Iron" will slide by you so smoothly, you won't know how it got stuck in your head 3 hours later. "When I kiss you just know that I'm spitting blood" from "Factory Line" is delivered with such simmering spite, you can taste the words.
"Doing Fine" is a prime example of the understated nature of these gently delivered but powerfully received messages. With a palette heavy on grays and muted hues, the gleams of light or glimpses of shadows stand out that much more. The chorus seems simple, but simple like a Hank Williams song, forlorn and insightful.
"Traces" is my personal favorite on the album. It's a hard-hitting ballad with a sweeping chorus (with enchanting harmony vocals provided by Janet Simpson-Templin, of Delicate Cutters/Gum Creek Killers/Wooden Wand/ Teen Getaway) and it wouldn't be out of place soundtracking a somber breakup scene in some teen soap. That's not to say it's generic and schmaltzy… okay, it's a little schmaltzy, but it's so damn well-written and just unfair on an emotional level. I would have straight up wept into my cheap beer if this had come out during my college days.
There are a few rockers on the album too, but the heart of the band is most strongly shown in the quieter moments. All Dies Down is thinking man's windows-down music. It's catchy sad-bastard music. It hurts so good.
Highly recommended to fans of: Buffalo Gospel, R.E.M., Reckless Kelly, The Gin Blossoms, Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams, good music.