With various pockets of the world shut down because of the coronavirus, people everywhere are using their extra free time to explore new ventures and expand their horizons. And Vancouver’s indie darling, Peach Pit, is no stranger to experimentation in these uncertain days. You and Your Friends, the group’s latest record, was released April 3 and introduces fans to a buffet of fresh styles, mixed together with recognizable chords and surf rock influences.
This album sees Peach Pit experimenting with its indie sound. Unlike 2017’s Being So Normal, You and Your Friends features vocals faced with an identity crisis, battling between heavy filtering and completely stripped-down tones. When both of these styles are used interchangeably on the same track, they tend to clash. Sometimes this contrast works for the better, and sometimes, like in the first song on the track list, it falls disappointingly flat.
Fans were first introduced to “Feelin’ Low (F*ckboy Blues),” the record’s introductory song, as a single in November. The distorted vocals veer away from the pure, soft sound the band has previously clung to; at times, these effects are more distracting than necessary, as the lyrics are shadowed by thick vocal warping.
“Live at the Swamp,” however, is one of the songs that adopts this distortion well. Splattered with drug references and budding romance, the song matches its acid-trip storyline with buzzing, woozy layering. The upbeat pace, driven by tapping drumsticks and speedy riffs, makes for one of the stronger, cohesive tracks on You and Your Friends.
This tone differs from songs like “Brian’s Movie,” which instead places raw vocals at the forefront of the song. In the past, Peach Pit’s style has been to intertwine vocals with instrumentals, so much so that the two fuse into one cohesive sound. On this album, the band takes more of an in-your-face approach, either completely drowning the singing in pools of effects or forcing the lyrics to stand front and center with little to hide behind.
But the band spins some delicate metaphors throughout these lyrics that work in tune with its quirky aesthetic. This style of writing especially shines on “Black Licorice,” in which the narrator conveys feelings of being unwanted and burdensome by taking on the character of an unpopular candy. “I’m just black licorice/ And all the people I know/ Would rather leave me in the bowl,” croons vocalist Neil Smith soberly.
“Figure 8” is one of the only regressive tracks on the album; the slow build at the beginning suggests something grand, like an arena rock combustion or a powerful tonal shift. What listeners find instead is anticlimactic: The ice-skating motifs feel choppy compared to the other more witty themes present on the record.
But “Camilla, I’m at Home” is one of the band’s most promising new songs. It maintains much of the band’s analog indie style, but the instrumental bits leading into choruses dip listeners’ toes into bright psychedelic territory. This tone also shows up at the beginning of “Thursday,” which teases at dream pop before bleeding into the flurry of overwhelming drums present in its chorus.
This move toward neo-psychedelia could signal a welcome change for the band, a switch that would fit the group’s sound and keep the music fresh while floating within a comfortable range for fans who have been around since 2016.
Alternatively, songs like “Shampoo Bottles” lean toward dreamy indie surf rock, a genre that has characterized the band since its beginning. Peach Pit performs well with what it knows, and staying within this familiar genre could lead the band to focus more on growing its lyrical and instrumental quality. “Shampoo Bottles” is one of the more well-written songs on You and Your Friends, offering both a calming post-breakup anthem and an honest, relatable narrative.
These songs are sure to be hits at live shows, but it’s clear Peach Pit is in a phase of experimentation. And since You and Your Friends is just the second full-length release from this fairly young band, who’s to tell what direction Peach Pit could go in next?