I feel like the best way to go into this album would be with no expectations, no per-conceived notions. If there was a way to set this up like a blind taste test straight out of the advertiser’s playbook that might be best — ‘would it surprise you that you’ve been listening to Peel Dream Magazine?’ It might, actually. The shoegaze glaze that had been liberally applied Joseph Stevens’ past records is worn away for Pad. With the clarity comes a shift in songwriting as well. It’s not just a cloud that’s been lifted, the band has swung away from much of the ‘90s grind that was driving thier past works as well, with the exception of perhaps Stereolab, whose caffeinated organs still pop up here and there on the new record. Oddly enough, this album might just be the one to follow the forms of their old Space Age Bachelor Pad Music mentality. You can practically smell the wood paneling and Formica between the bars.
The record finds solace in a hammock-swung pocket of pop, nicking bits of ‘60s folk and radio crooners with equal glee — balancing Burt Bacharach’s sincerity with Harry Nilsson’s whimsy. He sews in the sadness of Caetano Veloso, echoing his London exile while percolating just between the twin palms of Tropicália and Bossa Nova. The record digs in deeper, flirting with a Library Music strain that might put him in league with Frank Maston before arriving at an autumnal folk n’ electric burble that has hints of Kings of Convenience’s early records. He pulls it all together with a sweater weather charm that’s perfectly timed as far as release weeks go. Rounding back to the notion of expectations, it might have behooved Stevens to demarcate this record. Drop the Magazine like the Badge Epoque loner that came out last year, or hell give it a whole new band name. Cut the cord, put Peel Dream Magazine in parentheses and get reborn in stiller waters. It’s a great record no matter what’s on the marquee, though. Pad stands as an album that ingests the past without needing to become it.
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