ARTIST: Painted Palms
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”