PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Pavo Pavo Transform Separation Into Solace on 'Mystery Hour'

Photo courtesy of Bella Union

Pavo Pavo's Mystery Hour captures the highs and lows of love by fluctuating between sparse sorrow and luscious excitement.

Mystery Hour
Pavo Pavo

Bella Union

25 January 2019

Dream pop outfit Pavo Pavo is the brainchild of Eliza Bagg (vocals/strings/synths) and Oliver Hill (vocals/guitar/keys), whose 2016 debut, Young Narrator in the Breakers, earned considerable praise from major publications. Rounded out by Pete Coccoma (guitar), Noah Hecht (drums), and Ian Romer (vocals/bass), they amalgamate lively quirkiness and moving gentleness into a diverse and distinctive identity that's always surprising, touching, and curious. Their sophomore effort, Mystery Hour, harnesses and expands upon everything that made their first outing so stimulating, resulting in an equal—if not superior—follow-up that further strengthens their idiosyncratic cleverness.

The band justly describes the record as "a focused, widescreen development... [and] a fever dream filled with cinematic imagery" that revolves around "the narrative drama of Oliver and Eliza's changing relationship". Specifically, it was written as they were parting ways following a six-year coupling, and it ultimately impacted "the alchemy of their separating process and inform[ed] their new roles in each other's lives". Thematically, its inspirations go beyond other music to include artists like filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, painter David Hockney, and multimedia creator Alex da Corte. As for the main visual of Mystery Hour, photographer Natalie O'Moore "depicts [them] in turbulent conversation at the beach, resembling a film still". According to Hill, it's meant to connect to the Young Narrator front, as "that cover was a collage, and this is a photograph, the hi-res, come-to-life version." It makes sense, then, that Mystery Hour captures the highs and lows of love by fluctuating between sparse sorrow and luscious excitement so frequently and assuredly.

Although soberingly honest lyrically ("I realize love is to see every side of you / But mon cheri, I'm designed to be unsatisfied"), the opening title track is nonetheless exuberantly dense and bright. First and foremost, Bagg and Hill's angelic and grounded singing, respectively, complement each other very well, and the distorted guitar work, urgent piano chords, and metronomic rhythms create a sunnily tense environment. The atmospheric bookends and increasingly symphonic embellishments are nice touches, too. Afterward, "Mon Cheri" is hip and quirky as Hill leads the verses and spoken word passages above off-kilter synth treatments that conjure classic Super Furry Animals. "100 Years" is inventively chameleonic in its psychedelic pop shifts, whereas the two-part "Around" offers Beach Boys-esque bubbly feistiness, unpredictable instrumental fragmentations, and ethereal digital loneliness (a la Radiohead's Kid A or the Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots) in like measure.

On the softer and emptier end of Mystery Hour comes "Easy", a haunting ballad built around programmed percussion, tender guitar strums, and Bagg's multi-layered exposures. Sadly and ironically, the pacifying and downtrodden "Check the Weather" proves once again that Pavo Pavo works best when both singers unite (as does the lulling warmth of ode "The Other Half", whose recurrent guitar and piano motif seem slightly lifted from Ben Folds' "Sentimental Guy"). Naturally, closer "Goldenrod" explores loss and longing with apt sonic abandonment to leave listeners with fatalistic romantic unfulfillment.

Mystery Hour is quite an accomplishment professionally and personally, as Bagg and Hill are congruently creative and confessional in expressing their arc with eloquent honesty and striving, novel artistry. Each track freshly reveals a part of their puzzle with style-shifting panache while simultaneously ensuring that the LP flows cohesively. Such a feat should warrant them even more acclaim and—realistically or not—motivate them to team up again in the studio, if not elsewhere as well.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.