With a new wave of character-driven performers, Orville Peck stands to be one of pop’s most involved performers. Peck shows off this latest album as if you’ve known it your whole life, while he gives you plenty of reason to remember it now. Though he doesn’t always bring the hooks to match his ambitious performance, Peck never misses a chance to hook you into his voice.
As you listen to Orville Peck’s crooning, there’s a sense you’re tapping into a gem that you somehow never got around to hearing. Each track on this record breathes with tones of dark desert rock, classic pop, tones of Roy Orbison and a lyricism that is all Peck. Whether it’s the smoky feeling of “Dead of Night” or a hopeful note of moving forward on “Winds Change,” Peck makes it easy to get caught up in the feeling of the record while letting you really enjoy a half-dozen hooks at a time. Though you could certainly argue that something like “Turn To Hate” on the other hand is a little too reminiscent of handfuls of pop songs, this goes to show how infectious Peck’s charisma can be.
This kind of personality and a sense of unhinged writing really sets the album apart, as you feel like you’re catching a live performance that’s been sharpened down to a sonic edge. Between a snowballing speed and the fully enveloping character captured in “Buffalo Run” you’ll be caught up in the tumbling drums as it rounds out. You can even hear tones of Alex Cameron’s surreal character songs and a kind of vintage pop on this record, though focused on a Southern United States sense of nostalgia. This doesn’t stop songs like “Queen Of The Radio” or “Old River” from being utterly charming, but it does give you the right state of mind to see them as more than simple retro rock.
One would be foolish to miss the hints of David Lynch in what Peck delivers on this record, as music can be dreamy but idiosyncratic like on “Kansas,” but just as quickly descend into a kind of ugly chaos. However, Peck is apt at nailing a much more simple pop direction while still breathing new life in his production. That’s where songs like “Roses Are Falling” and “Big Sky” soar, as the overall passion in the delivery works with the subtle production notes to make anything feel brand new.
However, this doesn’t always mean that Peck can simply save a standard country riff through some new words and a little smirk. Several songs across the album lean pretty hard into classic country books and your appreciation of those will ultimately override the polish Peck offers. It’s worth noting the great steps that Peck takes to bridge his roots to something more ethereal and blissful like Cigarettes After Sex on something like “Hope To Die” without feeling like he’s riffing on anyone too hard.
Words by Owen Maxwell