February 3, 2020
The sophomore slump is a pattern that seems unavoidable for many rock bands. After taking time to assemble a band, write songs, and record those songs for a debut album, there is a certain amount of pressure to get that second album out to keep audiences interested and build the band’s hype. This historically leads bands to create a sloppy, half-baked collection of songs that pales in comparison to their first release. Pullover has managed to flip the script here with their album, Forever, and it surpasses their first in every way. After expanding their original two-man lineup to a five piece, the members of Pullover took their time to write some brilliant songs, perfect the arrangements, and record and mix them into a sonically dazzling package that contains elements of ‘70s guitar rock, Beach House’s keyboards, and Deerhunter-esque vocal effects.
Forever finds Pullover using much brighter, broader textures than their previous album, Repossession Blues. Each track balances layered reverb-drenched guitars, gentle synthesizer pads, steady bass, and understated percussion to create ethereal, transportive soundtracks. There is a psychedelic air throughout the album, as the spacious arrangements create a laid-back atmosphere allowing listeners to drift along the musical detours through which the band has led them. Phil Pucci’s voice is pushed to the front of the mix in a way that we haven’t heard in releases from his other acts Melt or Serfs, in which he puts an emphasis on vocal melodies and lyrics. He finds captivating contrast by switching between heavily processed singing with computerized undertones to soaring lines that fly above the instrumentals, such on the single, “Ride.”
The songs on Forever sound well loved and tended to. The album was recorded by Kenny McWilliams at Archer Avenue Studios in Colombia, SC over the course of several two-day stints. The recordings showcase a band that truly performs as a unit; each member sounds comfortable and confident in these songs. Drummer Alex Smith shines on “Falling Apart,” as his toms drive the spacious verses forward, before letting loose on the heavy and cathartic choruses and bridge. “Thought of You” showcases Brooke Weeks, whose synths add layers of texture and depth to the palette of the song, and her vocals balance out Pucci’s when paired in the chorus. The beginning of “Landed” finds Caiti Mason laying down a lush bass line in lockstep with the drums, followed by a slow layering of all of the other instruments. Guitarist Nicholas Holman and Pucci constantly play off of each other across Forever, trading leads and riffs without distracting from the rest of the instrumentation.
The album closes with “Caiti’s Song,” a number that builds slowly but has a big payoff. It starts quiet and contemplative, with a sugary-sweet vocal melody, before an abrupt explosion of sound around two minutes in. Distorted guitars and crashing cymbals bring out one of the loudest moments of the album and really demonstrate the band’s aptitude for using dynamic contrasts to their advantage. The whole album feels like a masterclass in songwriting and arranging; each track feels unique and complete, with careful placement of vocal and instrumental lines that give the listener plenty to unpack and discover with each listen.
Forever is now out on Self Aware Records on CD and cassette.