Painted Palms - Forever

San Francisco psych-pop duo Painted Palms channels pop heroes past and present on their debut LP.

Additional Info

8.3

ALBUM: Forever

ARTIST: Painted Palms

2014

Alternative

Cousins Reese Donohue and Chris Prudhomme both grew up in Louisiana, but didn’t start making music together until they were states apart from each other, exchanging beats and melodies via email. They continued on with this Postal Service-esque method of writing songs, albeit updated for the digital age, even well after they were both living in San Francisco and had one EP under their belt. This is how their debut record Forever came into fruition. On Forever, released on Polyvinyl Records, the duo makes no hesitation in adhering to the tried and true sounds of their pop heroes. Their meticulously crafted brand of psychedelic electro-pop fits in well with this crowd of influences; however, it doesn’t exactly rise above it. But while the young band has the potential to hone in a more original sound, this record demonstrates that they are worth keeping up with—because they know how to create a good pop song. In fact, this record has several. It’s no wonder they call themselves Painted Palms—they’re coloring the iconic tree of their state with their own psychedelic brush.

The record starts off with a jubilant bang—almost literally—with the opening cut “Too High,” which sets the tone for the rest of the album’s highlights: classic melodies with hard-hitting percussion and groovy instrumentation. But that formula accounts for only 75% of the record: what makes it even more special is the mix of the upbeat and danceable to the slow and tender, the latter of which is best exemplified by “Soft Hammer,” which follows the best track of the former in the greatest 1-2 punch of the album. Because of the varied nature of instrumentation, singer Chris Prudhomme’s vocals are in a similarly varied state of obscurity throughout the record. For instance, on the opening track, the juxtaposition of the joyous soundscape and his smooth soaring vocals is one of the record’s greatest balances. However, the frequent downside is that his reverbed-out lyrics become washed out. There are probably some lyrical gems in those particular numbers, but they hide under a glossy layer of production.

However, the lyrics that can be understood are fantastically written. Prudhomme seems to be in the midst of an identity crisis, caught between his inner thoughts and how they interact with his real life relationships—and his lyrics reflect that. The standout line, from the title track “Forever,” reads, “Thinking about myself too much I can see that/I don’t know what to be.” While it’s an intensely relatable subject for many, the real magic is in how it’s delivered. They have a real knack for vocal melody. Even on tracks that otherwise fall flat, the melody line is always the redeeming factor. Prudhomme croons with varying intensity and always in perfect pitch—and makes it sound so easy while doing it. Soaring and dynamic, these melodies could probably carve through the Bay Area fog of the band’s immediate surroundings at home with the finesse of those of the Beach Boys.

In terms of influence, the record is reminiscent of quite a pastiche of bands from a variety of genres and time periods. Those more modern include electro-pop masters Neon Indian, Panda Bear, and Starfucker, the latter of whom Painted Palms toured with after the release of their EP. And another one of their past tour mates and good friend Kevin Barnes, from Of Montreal, made it to their Spotify playlist chock full of bands that inspired them during their recording process

“Thinking about myself too much I can see that/I don’t know what to be”

1. Too High
As an opening track, “Too High” puts forth the formula that many later cuts follow suit with: 10 seconds of sonic noise dissolving into a wash of beats and textures. Out of all the followers of this formula, this is definitely one that takes the cake. The opening helicopter-esque sound effect builds ups for a release that’s seamlessly delivered in an explosion of modulated beats reminiscent of 90s pop. While much of the lyrics are obscured by reverb, the soaring “oh-oh” lines are the track’s winning ingredient. 8.5
2. Here It Comes
After the previous hard-hitting sonic jam, “Here It Comes” is a welcome break for the ears. Without such an emphasis on beats, they’re able to focus in on their knack for melody, especially instrumentally, as glockenspiel and bass lines closely follow vocal melodies. While it keeps on with the sunny vibes, the track loses steam quickly.7.5
3. Hypnotic
If the title is any indication, this track oscillates between the same two bars of beats for a majority of its 3.5 minutes, “If you’ve got a thing to say, say it now” being the lyrics on perpetual repeat as if it’ll continue to do so until you comply with the request. While the retro-sleek production calls to mind the best of their pop influences, the break-beat effect of the vocals sounds choppy and inauthentic, almost like a sub-par remix of their own song.7.0
4. Forever
The title track of the album, “Forever” is the record’s clear stand-out in every way. So far, they’ve taken the listener on a fun and breezy journey, but on this one, they really buckle down and hold nothing back. Taking a darker and edgier approach, the beats are harder and the vocals are as passionate as ever. With Prudhomme crooning, “Thinking about myself too much I can see that/I don’t know what to be,” it’s clear this cut carries personal weight for him, which is purely refreshing to hear.10.0
5. Soft Hammer
Though it has its flaws, this is certainly the best track to follow the moody punches of “Forever.” Simple and dreamy, it finds novelty in being the first and longest ballad on the record. Each guitar line and shaker shake reverberates through the sonic atmosphere like a drop in a pond, and the vocal phrasing is gorgeous. The only thing deterring from the goodness of the track is the musical interlude which, while full of promising ideas, extends perhaps a minute too long. 8.0
6. Carousel
As the only track to appear on a previous release (as a single from 2012), this one will evoke some nostalgia in old fans. And with its mid-tempo melodic charm and wistful oscillating beats, it may do the same for those new to the band as well. Though it happens to be painfully short compared to the other cuts, it provides an excellent segue into the second half of the record.8.0
7. Not Really There
The title of this track is an unfortunately fitting description of how it fits in with the rest of the record. The first 20 seconds of innovatively crunchy beats are so interesting that it makes the mediocrity of the rest of the track all the more disappointing. The vocal melody is almost directly lifted from the earlier track “Here It Comes” and from the older one “Falling Asleep” (from x), except it presents a much duller version. It’s certainly pop-friendly and had a lot of potential, but sadly fell flat.6.5
8. Hope That You See It Now
This incredibly short interlude feels very random and out of place on a record. It’d be one thing if it served as a musical interlude into the next track, but it feels like a demo preview that accidentally made it on the tracklist. For what it is, the idea would definitely serve as a good jumping-off point for a new song.
9. Spinning Signs
The first single off the record was chosen with good intentions: this jaunty psychedelic romp rivals the pop-sensibilities of the Beatles. Matching the darkness and intensity of “Forever,” pulsating drum beats bring new life to the classic pop structures they pay homage to.9.5
10. Sleepwalking
The first 20 seconds of “Sleepwalking” feels, well, exactly like sleepwalking: the eerie wash of synths produce a dream-like environment where the future destination is unknown. Luckily, it picks a direction soon after, evolving into a lush ballad with a woozy refrain. Piqued by textured percussion and melodic keys, the track is the musical equivalent of a nice dream. 9.0
11. Empty Gun
This track finds a good balance between the jangly pop they’ve proven to be good at and subtle stylings of surf pop. The verses are fraught with wobbly electric guitar and tambourines, while the refrains complete a nice album arc of danceable pop akin to the opening track. It’s not a song one would expect to find so late in an album, but on its own, it’s perfectly catchy.8.0
12. Angels
After a complete album chock-full of busy pop jams, this is the stripped down number that serves as the perfect cool-down. In fact, they completely ditch any semblance of laptop production touches for an acoustic guitar/tambourine set-up. Prudhomme’s vocals sound raw and unhindered, providing some slow-burning soulfulness that pleasantly escorts your ears to the close.9.0
Written by Hailey Simpson
Now attending college at UC Berkeley, Hailey's main passions in life are attending every concert she possibly can while keeping up with her studies, drinking copious amounts of Philz Coffee, and spinning tunes on her college radio station KALX.



comments powered by Disqus
Tagged under

News

Watch!

Listen