Pop Culture

Discover a lovelier pop band

There are certain CDs that make me sigh with delight. Like a good yoga class or a sunny day (somewhat rare here in Seattle), they create an involuntary release — the tension that settles in my shoulders dissolves while that CD spins. Thank goodness, the Pernice Brothers make that kind of music.

Interestingly, somewhat like the Smiths, the sweet, uplifting melodies that fill the band’s new album, “Discover a Lovelier You” belie darker lyrics. The lyrics of “Saddest Quo” remind me of the way I used to bop my head to “Bigmouth Strikes Again.”  The Pernice Brothers sing about a “trainwreck picking up survivors of a plane crash” to a pretty catchy beat. This is truly a post-9/11 CD, where Pernice looks back longingly from a “color-coded era” in the song “Say Goodnight to the Lady” and also mentions how we’re living in a time of “survival of the sickest.” Couldn’t agree more.

If it seems like Joe Pernice is a bit of a wordsmith that’s because he has an MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts. And maybe that just appeals to the lit geek in me, but it’s pretty hard to resist lyrics like, “Scratched your farwell cuplet / In my window frost” from the song “There Goes the Sun.”

In a recent interview with Paste, he talked about how poetry affected his songwriting, saying, “I started editing my songs the same way I would a poem. Does every word count? Is there any fat cluttering up the song? Are the images saying what I want or anything at all?” You see this method at work in every song.

One of the loveliest songs on the CD is Pernice’s duet with Blake Hazard on the song, “Subject Drop,” in which the two singers trade verses as a couple who realizes that their relationship has no chance for revival. Reminiscing about the way he used to feel about her, he sings, “You were so sweet / You stopped a whole procession if you dropped your lace handkerchief.” And she sings back in return, “You were so strong. I crumbled like a city underneath that love song.”

Joe Pernice has been making music since the mid 1990s. You may remember his alt-country days with the Scud Mountain Boys. These days he’s all about pop. This CD even has more synth than the band’s last release, the wonderful “Yours, Mine & Ours.” The songs are a bit like what you might imagine Brian Wilson wanted the Beach Boys to sound like, less emphasis on pop hooks and more on sweet harmonies and strumming guitars.

Pernice put it this way in Paste, “I love melodies, and I gravitate toward writing melodies that I might want to listen to. Lyrically, I might be a darker person, but musically, I like major chords and major sevenths.”

This is one of the prettier records you’re going to discover this year. The band has crafted yet another incredible album. Consistency like this is rare in modern music.

For more information on the Pernice Brothers visit: http://www.pernicebrothers.com/index_content.html.

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