Album Review: Painted Palms – Forever

by J. Lawrence King on January 14, 2014

PAINTEDPALMS-DIGITALCOVER

San Francisco based duo Painted Palms thrive in a world of disconnection. Whether it be their creative process, in which members Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme write independently and then collaborate over the internet, or their lyrical content, which dwells upon the things that cannot be communicate. Painted Palms writes about the kind of isolation that can only be a product of this digital age. Yet this isolation rarely feels like a prison. From the propulsive guitars in “Hypnotic” to the saccharine psych pop of the title track “Forever” these songs ooze with curiosity and imagination.

Though Prudhomme sings “I spend a lot of time thinking of myself” in “Carousel” the song is never bogged down in the black hole of narcissism that these lyrics suggest. Instead, the song bounces around the subject like a child in the early stages of self reflection. That’s not to say that the album is without it’s trip-ups. For every “Forever” and “Carousel” there is a “Soft Hammer” and “Sleepwalking” that provide an unnecessary airiness to an album that relies on psychedelic grooves instead of the density and space that would define, say,  an Animal Collective album. This is less Merriweather Post and more Oracular Spectacular and that’s why the greatest moments are when Painted Palms rely on the standard 60’s psych pop structures and avoid the Panda Bear-isms that creep into songs like “Too High” and “Here it Comes.”

The final third of the album provide the strongest and most definitive moments on Forever. Lead single “Spinning Signs” is not only the most memorable song on the album but one of the first really good singles of the early year. Then “Empty Guns,” with its Tame Impala-esque guitar riff and strong hook, provides the only lyrical breach of Forever’s obsession with disconnection and isolation. When Prudhomme sings that he “sees the light” and “It threatens to tear him apart” the album has its first real moment of gravitas and leads into closer “Angels.” From the opening acoustic guitar to the delicate falsettos, “Angels” is stark, beautiful and yet devolves into another reality as the song shifts into a repetitive cycle, uncomfortably circling around a tonic resolution that it will never achieve. If Forever is an album about the conflict between the intrinsic and extrinsic worlds then it is a conflict without resolution. Musically, Painted Palms aren’t much more than a collection of their influences, from the early propagators of psych pop to the more recent perpetuators, most notably Animal Collective, but lyrically they’ve created a dense and self-reflective album worth repeated listens.

Grade: Silver Platter +

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