It seems like every four to eight years Britain produces a new band full of youthful vigor that drops a debut record and sets the music world on fire. In 2002, it was the Libertines’ Up the Bracket, in 2006 in was Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and now, in 2013, it’s Palma Violets’ 180. Of course, it’s impossible to determine how far-reaching 180‘s impact will be but there’s already been very vocal support campaign spearheaded by NME that more and more people have been siding with (the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn being a recent example). Listening to 180 on heavy rotation and giving it as much thought as listening time for the past week has made it very hard to argue.
First off, there’s the 1980s style punk/no-wave and sound, where everything is distinct but muddled with a new wave influence expertly folded in. This is where Palma Violets have their first success, as the majority of bands attempting anything similar these days have failed miserably and come off sounding trite or limp. Palma Violets flip the script on the trend and end up sounding completely empowered. Their influences don’t come across as forced or necessary but instead seem to exist as things occurring naturally away from the forefront, which has become increasingly rare. Their instrumental palette and utilization of minimal space propels them even further, managing to evoke a variety of wide-stretching influences while still sounding impossibly fresh.
There’s a lingering darkness running through these 11 tracks that’s reminiscent of early Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and ensures the songs don’t just get stuck in the listeners head but genuinely stay with them as well. A few of them may even be unforgettable (there are at least five that immediately spring to mind as candidates). This is helped by the fact these songs have absurdly well-informed structures, a host of earworm-worthy hooks, and a surprisingly astute melodicism. Even when the vocals are clearly not the focus of the song, as is the case with “Last of the Summer Wine”, the instrumental segments command enough attention that it can become easy to forget, in the moment, that the band even had vocalists to begin with. When the realization the vocalists do, in fact exist, the listener is rewarded with naturalistic performances and better-than-expected lyricism that meditates heavily on love and loss in a surprisingly mature fashion.
Even with everything going in Palma Violets’ favor, records still have other elements where they can falter. 180 doesn’t fall into those traps and delivers on virtually every level. The mastering is complementary to the bands sound and style, the sequencing is incredibly engaging and never detracts from 180‘s momentum, and (as mentioned before) the production style works wonders. For a highly-anticipated debut record, that’s nothing short of astounding. The confidence that Palma Violets exude with 180 won’t go unnoticed. However, there are brief moments in a select few songs where the band seems somewhat unsure of their footing, which serves as something that simultaneously distracts and lends 180 even more charm, making it impossible to either praise or deride and ultimately standing as a potential necessary evil.
Ultimately, from the brilliant opening track (one of last years best singles) “Best of Friends” to the defiantly ramshackle closing “14”, Palma Violets have crafted a stunning debut record that should put the world on notice. There’s a confident swagger permeating 180 that recalls the Replacements in their most drunken (and outrageously fun) state, a sound and style that hits all the sweet spots, and the chops to make it work against all odds. This will likely be 2013’s most necessary debut and will undoubtedly stand as one of the years best ten months down the line. Palma Violets have hit the ground running at full speed, it’ll be entertaining watching the world tripping over themselves in a vain effort to try and keep up.
// Notes from the Road
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