Pavo Pavo show us their vision of psych pop
If you believe the media then New York is full of cupcake start-up shops, rap beefs and punks. One experimental pop quintet is trying to change all that. Their name is Pavo Pavo and they’ve just released one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year. After meeting at Yale, where they studied music, Eliza Bagg violin/synth/vocals, Oliver Hill guitars/synth/vocals, Nolan Green guitars/voice, Austin Vauhn drums and Ian Romer bass started making skewed pop. Their music is full of cultural signposts that show their collective influences. Vast alt-country soundscapes rub shoulders with indie sensibilities, 1960’s sci-fi motifs, psych pop synths and Beastles-esque harmonies. There are some big ideas at play here, along with some delightful melodies.
‘Ran Ran Run’ gets the album going in fine form. Sounding like Emmy the Great covering 10cc while Wendy Carlos produces, ‘Ran Ran Run’ is four minutes of delightful hooks, laidback rhythms. It sounds like a setting sun is emanating from your speakers washing your room in an orange hue. ‘Annie Hall’ is as neurotic and quirky as the film it is based on.
Now comes the first bump on the album. ‘A Quiet Time With Spaceman Sputz’ is a good idea, but it could be tighter and drags in places. Next to the sharp does of pop of ‘Wiserway’ and ‘Somewhere in Iowa’ it feels like ‘A Quiet Time With Spaceman Sputz’ is on the wrong album with its haunting instrumental laconic vibe. So far the music has been upbeat and poppy, but on ‘A Quiet Time With Spaceman Sputz’ Pavo Pavo push themselves, the problem is that the results are jarring next to what’s come before. It doesn’t quite gel properly.
‘The Aquarium’ is a dose of glossed out harmonies over a bed of wonky synths and ad-hoc basslines. In a lot of ways it feels like walking through an aquarium. When you look a certain the fish look normal, take a side step to the left and they resemble creatures from another dimension. This song is the same. Just when you think it’s a standard pop song, it moves slightly to the left and everything is skewed and twisted. ‘John (A Little Time)’ feels like Vangelis covering Wings/Paul McCartney during his Beauborg phase. All the elements of a pop banger are in there, but they’ve been moved about, cut up and reassembled so they resemble something new, fun and quirky. The album closes with ‘2020, We’ll have Nothing Going On’. This is where Pavo Pavo really show what their made of. At six minutes it’s the longest track on the album, but instead of a long and drawn out jam track, Pavo Pavo have created a song that twists and skews its way along that when it ends you are unsure whether to play it, or the album again.
This is the sound of a band finding their feet. Pavo Pavo know what they want to do and they know what they want to sound like, but it doesn’t all quite work 100%. Songs like ‘Ran Ran Run’, ‘Wiserway’, ‘The Aquarium’ and ‘2020, We’ll Have Nothing Going On’ are nigh on flawless full of shiny pop hooks and Beatles-esque psych melodies, that conjure up the past, while reminding us its 2016. However some of the other tracks aren’t quite as inventive. Next to them, their slight flaws are magnified. Saying that, this is a very strong and clever debut album and with a couple of tweeks it could have been the masterpiece we hoped for, but come 2020 we’ll have plenty to go on!
Young Narrator in the Breakers is out now on Bella Union