Release Date: 11 November 2016
On paper, Pavo Pavo's back-story, along with their mustachioed appearance, could see them written off as hipster, wannabe art rockers. The classically trained quintet hail from Brooklyn, and are most at home experimenting in the studio, honing their idiosyncratic wistful pop. But instead of producing an affected collection of overthought experimentation, the group has crafted something altogether more heartfelt and alluring. The opener, "Ran Ran Run," is as good an example as any on the record of the kind of playful, charming music Pavo Pavo are capable of creating. Their use of retro synths and honeyed harmonies is far from regressive; rather, it's rendered skillfully in service of melody. Lyrically, the band also surprises with open and optimistic lyrics that often search for joy: "People used to dance/Why don't they dance again." It's a track that sets out the band's stall both musically and thematically for the rest of the record, but doesn't give away all that is appealing about them. Whereas "Ran Ran Run" has a danceable, disco quality to it, tracks like "Wiserway" show the band's more reflective, dream pop side. It's an asset that is most beautifully realized on "Somewhere in Iowa," whose vocals evoke the powerful yet hushed delicacy of Art Garfunkel. The song rates as one of the most touching on a record that Oliver Hill (voice, guitar, and keys) has described as a collection that acts as the bandmembers' "love letters to each other." As they sing "We will not get caught in a dust storm honey/Because we're underneath each other's arms," it's clear that rather than focus on the all too familiar proclivity for introspection, Pavo Pavo put the emphasis on the collective nature of their music. The interplay between Hill, Eliza Bagg, and Ian Romer's voices is at the heart of the record. One of the most satisfying examples of the combination is on "Belle of the Ball," whose chorus breaks away from the closely knit harmonies of the verses into a free-flowing, soaring refrain. Romer's basslines also figure highly in the finely drawn details of the record. The warmth of his low-end rhythms frames the building melody, which is set off with flickering strings. Elsewhere, the character of the record casts itself as the soundtrack of some imagined, timeless sci-fi tale. The warped, laid-back instrumental "A Quiet Time with Spaceman Sputz" feels like it could be the theme tune to a recast, cosmic Shangri-La. "2020, We'll Have Nothing Going On" sounds like Peter, Paul and Mary redux, pleading "Take me to your country." Their tendency to contrast strings, aged synthesizers, and optimistic harmonies leads to a slightly peculiar Lynchian vibe at times in spite of its innocence and optimism. It's no wonder there's a song called "Annie Hall" on the record; it's an era and aesthetic that Pavo Pavo are clearly indebted to. Yet they could quite easily also be compared to contemporary artists like Grizzly Bear or even the Flaming Lips. Pavo Pavo have achieved a collection that eschews the obvious, being undoubtedly hip yet simultaneous geeky in its references, and the resulting work is a real gem.
- Bekki Bemrose, AllMusic