So I’m going to be honest. I am 100% biased when it comes to this review. This guy has been making back to back masterpieces, and to say that I’ve been unaware of him would be a lie.
Usually whenever you hear underground music, it sounds like it came from the underground. With trained ears you can hear the mic pops, the muddied bass lines, the out of tune vocals, etc. Yet it’s because of its sincerity that we keep coming back to it, again and again. But what if I were to tell you that there was a soundcloud musician out there, whose songs brim with sincerity that sounds so polished, so pristine, and so perfect that it makes every person on soundcloud look like the amateurs that they (and I’m including myself) are?
Now I introduce you to Pretty O.P. a musician who lives up to his name. Where to begin with this song? The first time I ever listened to Pretty O.P. I was blown away by his vocals. He’s got so much range, and it has that quality that everybody loves in a singer which is his ability to emote. They say that the mark of a good singer is his ability to stay in tune, and the mark of a great singer is to stay in tune and emote. This song is no different, yet he introduces so many new elements to his vocals that you cannot help but be amazed by his singing.
Then there’s the musicality of Pretty O.P. the chord progressions, the electronic flourishes, the pitch perfect guitar solo, the ebbs and flow of the track. There is literally hook after hook in this song. In one moment you’re blown away by the acoustic chord progressions, then there’s this psychedelic dubstep sounding synths (a phrase I never thought I would ever write), and then it goes lo-fi with the ambience of children playing over what sounds like a tape recorder.
So you’d think after that one long ass run on sentence that that would be all there is to the track. You’d be wrong. It’s better to listen then to read a review so I implore you to checkout an artist who has been slaying it, track after track.
Who doesn’t like a song with a nice groove? Nobody. That’s the answer to that rhetorical question.
Immediately the track starts off with this amazing guitar. The kind of guitar that if you were to listen to it on the street, you’d immediately start walking with a swagger. That’s how cool it is. Yet I said this track had a groove, and I’ll be getting to that, but you gotta recognize style when you see it. After all if you wear the flashiest suit on earth, but don’t have the confidence to back it up, then you turn cool to cringe. And nobody likes to cringe.
Nobody can deny the coolness of a track that’s got some groove. Yet it’s how you present it that matters. From the funky bass lines, the heavy synths, the amazing vocals, the gunshot samples–everything just works. Even the guitar at the end with that pitch perfect funky tone. And if you follow this blog you know how much I love a good guitar tone. All of these elements combine with a drum beat in this kaleidoscopic manner–where everything shifts and morphs–while retaining the core funkiness that’s needed for a track to have a nice groove.
Now everybody needs to be cool every once in awhile. Listening to this track is the equivalent of being the bigshot in town, walking down the street, feeling like a million bucks, looking like a million bucks, and who doesn’t like that?
Yet it’s not just about being cool. After all we’re in the underground here, and perhaps it’s hipsterdom, perhaps we’re a bit too clever. But being cool doesn’t really cut it anymore. As I mentioned before the track has this kaleidoscopic type of sound, the sound you won’t often find in the mainstream. While most songs bludgeon you to death with the same notes over and over and over again. This track, has so much variety, in such a short amount of time. It doesn’t become experimental, yet at the same time, you can see James 3K being fairly adept at experimentation.
So it’s not just cool. After all your older brother going to college and coming back home, seems like the coolest thing ever. Then when you find out that everything he says and does is cliched, he’s not as cool as you thought he was. This track has enough individualism, and artistry that it’s impossible for it to be cliched. So as a result the coolness never feels forced, it just permeates throughout the track. Which really is the basis for being cool–just being yourself.
There’s always an existential crisis when it comes to music, and musicians. Which is, what is it about me that makes me want to create music? What drives me to do this? Why can’t I just be a music fan? What is it that separates me, from the average person, who just listens to music?
After all it isn’t cheap. The gear, the promotion of your music, the recording studio fees, the amount of time trying to perfect that one take, etc. It’s essentially a large money pit, that requires you to learn as you go, any mistake is costly, and that’s not even the half of it. There’s an extremely high percentage that most people won’t listen to your music, and it’s not even a question of whether your music is good or not. It’s up to fate, and nothing is more existentially terrifying than leaving something up to fate.
So when Lo! Peninsula writes that, “Our debut EP, AKA Lo Peninsula, is a catharsis of the existential crisis that we have been facing since the band was formed. This is our response to all the trials and tribulations that we had endured since we took our baby steps as a band.” Anybody who makes music immediately understands what they mean.
To begin with Lo! Peninsula’s AKA Lo Peninsula is an amazing album. For anybody who says rock n’ roll is dead, or has quit innovating, I would encourage them to listen to this album. The vocals innovate on the best of indie rock. With it’s production makes it sound like not just a rock singer, but like a voice high up in the mountains singing lyrics that peers out to the horizon–that sees all struggling artists–then articulates everything that they’ve been felt and experienced. For example take the lyrics in Quicksand (Nuffin).
“Drowning in quicksand everyday
Locked in a dreamy haze again
Look how we anticipate
A blizzard in the midst of a sunny day
To celebrate our own defeat”
It’s a song that encapsulates that natures of dreamers and artists–who in spite of all odds–strive for something greater. Something that is so exceptionally different from the regular person who is just solely focused on what’s in front of them, that they forget to look up at the stars. Yet as an artist knows, that no matter how long you stare up at the stars, at the end of the day you still need to pay the bills.
The psychedelic guitars even further illustrate this point. Psychedelia was originally started from artists who were pushing boundaries, expanding their consciousness, and changing the status quo. So what better sound is there to encapsulate the archetypal spirit of the artist than psychedelia? The guitar with it’s psychedelic tones, creates a sound that is not only unique but also celebrates everything that preceded it. Take Sleight of Hand with it’s thundering bass, spaced out guitars, and cool laid back drumming. It not only creates music that is expansive, and conceptual but also music that has a groove; a sound that you could dance to, or just listen to in your room. Regardless of which you choose it’s music that you can lose yourself in.
Yet even if you create the best art in the world and nobody listens to it. Take Evil Favours a song that begins with a melancholy sample of a thunderstorm. With a reflective and introspective sound, it asks questions that most artists themselves. Is it all worth it? Lo! Peninsula reflects on these questions that artists often ask of themselves, and provides an answer.
We broke all the rules
To spend a lonely lifetime together
And tiptoeing down memory lane
To find another spark of love to treasure
Should we be counting on evil favours forever?
We sailed across the ocean
To play our parts along and undefeated
And crushing down the castles in the sand
To find another spark of love to treasure
Should we be counting on evil favours forever?
Oftentimes musicians take for granted that we even have the ability to create. Many people waste their whole lives wondering, “What if?” Yet Lo! Peninsula offers us a hand and provides us with the context that so many artists desperately need, that often it’s not the destination that matters, rather, it’s the journey.
Take the only track that does not feature any lyrics, Flashback Kid. With it’s reflective soundscape, and hopeful upbeat tone; it recalls a period in time when every musician picked up that six string guitar and started strumming away. Each section of the song feels like a discovery, of that time when you found a new chord, bought a microphone, recorded your first song, or bought a new guitar pedal; that feeling you get when you can finally start expressing yourself in a way, that words just can’t.
Finally Final Roar brings the album to it’s conclusion. The track has a false start, then you hear what sounds like a cassette being popped out of a cassette player, like a musician reminiscing on his music, the music that failed to provide a living, the music that cost so much, the music that they poured so much of themselves into, only to get nothing in return. Then the music returns with a reinvigorated energy that sounds uplifting and focused. No, they aren’t going to stop. Because like Lo! Peninsula says,
“Because it’s time for the final roar
To be awake forevermore
Well it’s time for the final roar
To be awake forevermore”
Lo! Peninsula created this album as an expression of the existential questions they faced as a band. Yet, this album not only expresses the indomitable spirit of the artist but that of all humanity. That challenges we face when we no longer tread the beaten path, but blaze our own path; and the triumph of the individual overcoming all obstacles in their path.
For it’s amazing psychedelic sounds, celebration of the human spirit, and everything else that this album has to offer, I give it my full recc.