London – Brooklyn band Pavo Pavo harbours a quirky name, a retro future album cover, and a classical meets pop heritage that perhaps unsurprisingly yields a fascinating mix. The band name comes from a southern constellation whose brightest star is called Peacock, or Pavo in Latin. The graphics on the striking cover of its debut album Young Narrator in the Breakers hint at a future artily imagined in the late 50s. Yet according to the music on this 12-track opening salvo, the future is bright and steeped in the heyday of Brian Wilson, rather than anything earlier; for all that it is, as forward looking as it is wistful.
With the departure of guitarist/vocalist Nolan Green who features on this album, Pavo Pavo is now a quartet with vocal and synth duties shared by Eliza Bagg and Oliver Hill who met when studying music at Yale. Bagg also contributes violin, Hill guitar, and the line-up is completed by bassist Ian Romer and drummer Austin Vaughn. The album is a pleasing mix of softly experimental soundscapes and approachable, melodic electro-pop songs, informed by a range of influences from classical music to high fidelity pop. Retro features include the use of both 70s monosynths and polyphonic mellotrons which are seamlessly blended with classical and rock instrumentation. The result is an inventive collage that gently ensnares the listener in its beauty and precision.
Opener “Ran Ran Run” sets the tone for this seductive onset. “Time is a hole in my head” Eliza Bagg sings in a dreamy wisp of a voice and sets up a surreal coming-of-age experience that carries you away with the sheer charm of the encompassing melody lines.
Whether offering a paean to the romantic side of New York in “Annie Hall” and simultaneously nodding harmonically in the direction of The Beach Boys’ “Surf’s Up,” if thematically to Woody Allen, or channelling Bon Iver-like delicacy in the Nolan Green-led “Somewhere in Iowa,” Pavo Pavo constantly engages. Sometimes it’s hard to determine exactly what is creating which sound. The latter song features some odd antique tones and what sounds tonally like guitar with the reverb there but cut right back. The sumptuous harmonies between two male and one female voice on the simply beautiful “Belle Of The Ball” are an absolute joy, while the instrumental soundscape “A Quiet Time with Spaceman Sputz” conjures up an alien landscape in such a softly atmospheric manner it could have been subtitled “Sea of Tranquillity.”
All bar two of the songs here, the tracks average a run between 3-4 minutes, ensuring an economy of approach that’s very much in tune with pop sensibilities. The dream pop of “Wiserway” and bright, bass and guitar-led “No Mind” illustrate this facet perfectly.
The album comes to a close with the short instrumental title track acting as a sort of overture for arguably its most impressive piece, “2020, We’ll Have Nothing Going On.” The six-minute song breaks the earlier pop rules, but how gloriously! Structurally it reminds me of the mini-epics that the 70s British band 10cc and certainly its successors, Godley & Crème, specialised in. Lyrically it juxtaposes NYC rat race dilemmas with some kind of escape to country living, where life is simpler and easier. It neatly wraps up the coming of age theme that ripples throughout the record and adds a further dimension in terms of the city vs. country thing. The beauty of it is that Pavo Pavo evokes these parallel worlds quite brilliantly in its musical interpretation and knits it all together magnificently. Unfortunately, there’s no “2020” YouTube clip yet to show you… so just buy the record!
Young Narrator In The Breakers is out now and available to buy on iTunes. Pavo Pavo is completing a short UK tour this week. Details are on the band’s Facebook page.
Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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