Music Reviews

An Unexpected Sonic Odyssey, A HEALTHY EARTH Finds Peaer Exploring New Highs

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Genre: Indie Rock, Slowcore

Favorite Tracks: “Like You,” “Commercial,” “Multiverse,” “Joke,” “In My Belly,” “I.K.W.Y.T.,” “Have Fun”

For a band whose ascent to the top of the indie scene was defined by conflation with Pedro The Lion and Duster, Connecticut native Peter Katz actually makes some of the most original Northeastern indie rock I’ve heard in years. Peaer’s self-titled debut was an excellent exercise in combining math rock, classical composition, and a SLANTED ENCHANTED-era Stephen Malkmus-esque bellow. The record was followed by extensive touring within the DIY scene as well as two decidedly more lo-fi but still engaging odds-and-ends collections, THE HANDS AND FEET TURN BLUE and THE EYES SINK INTO THE SKULL. Peaer’s sophomore record, A HEALTHY EARTH, forgoes the confessional and morose angst of Peaer’s earlier endeavors, presenting fans with one of the least narcissistic records of the year.

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The most surprising thing about A HEALTHY EARTH is that it is often a concept album about global warming and dystopia in the modern world. This is best exemplified on the shimmering track “Commercial,” in which Katz sings “I just want my loved ones to be safe from the rising waves, the fires, the horrors that I see all day.” Though these lyrics immediately feel like a reference to the barrage of apocalyptic news we have been berated with daily since the Trump administration dethroned American expectations, upon subsequent listens the lyrics become prophetic examinations of benign destruction similar to the themes explored by the novelist Don Delillo. “Multiverse” is also a deeply human song that opts to find commonality in fiction instead of fact. The song’s lyrics pose a number of hypotheticals about what he would do if he lived in a different dimension, but after a few verses of pondering, an Auto-Tuned Katz just settles on wanting a working car. While Peaer employed otherworldly storytelling on the single “Left / Felt, Pt. 2”, the lyrical altruism of A HEALTHY EARTH is refreshing and astonishing coming from an indie band.

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The other thing that sets Peaer apart from their house show peers is the band’s genuine musical talent (watch this video for proof of Katz’s shocking dexterity as a guitar player). This general cumulative talent as a band doesn’t just manifest itself as proficiency and precision, but also through interesting arrangements and fluctuating dynamics. Listening to A HEALTHY EARTH at times feels like listening to a symphony that varies between piano and fortissimo. Playing the record in a car is a constant battle between human and volume knob. There are moments where the sound will be cranked all the way up just to make out the nearly silent portions of many of the songs, and right as the listener finds a decibel level loud enough to hear what’s happening, Peaer crank up the energy and barrel straight back into a distorted rock song. There are also tempo shifts, best exemplified on “In My Belly,” which fluidly transitions from quivering slowcore to up-tempo Beach Fossils-style indie pop in a matter of seconds. What the record does best, however, is compose compelling musical arrangements around the vocals, as on “Joke,” when the band perfectly times the energy after Peter sings “I have a problem with the design of this plan.” The general spastic nature of A HEALTHY EARTH is gripping, unique, and cinematic.

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Peaer’s evolution from familiar but talented post-(Sandy) Alex G indie rockers to mature and developed musical savants is jolting. While the self-titled record was a perfect album for a niche audience, A HEALTHY EARTH is unlike any record I’ve heard this year, and the already insufficient comparisons that marked Peaer’s career before the release of the group’s sophomore triumph have proved themselves even more dated. A HEALTHY EARTH is borderline prog and presents an impressive sonic odyssey I never would have expected. While it may take a couple listens to warm up to how all-over-the map the 38-minute runtime is, I advise giving the record the time it deserves. It may not always make sense, but the record is a baffling victory that earns all the patience it takes to warm up to.

Ted Davis
Ted Davis is a culture writer and musician. He works in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

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