You can look down the mouthwatering list of releases set for a year ahead and form a pretty good idea of what's in store. This year we have certainly had our fair share of expected treats but when an album like Pela's debut Anytown Graffiti pops up off the radar the treat is even more sweet to the taste. Pela are 4 guys from Brooklyn and together they make deep, heartfelt music that rises on mesmeric rhythms and soars with front man Billy McCarthy's frenzied, earnest vocals.
I must confess, I first fell in love with The National during their 2005 release Alligator, then tracked through their back catalogue fueling my addiction and desperately making up for lost time. Although I missed their 2005 EP All The Time I feel to be joining Pela from the ground floor and it feels good. The National comparison is also apt as Pela's blend of emotional song writing and rich compositions evokes Matt Berninger's light touch and sensitivity. Musically they are both drummers bands and the constant, driving rhythm here forms the structure with all manner of instruments hitching a ride.
As the military drum roll of Waiting On The Stairs counts us in McCarthy's pent up howl sounds raw and unkempt against the tight and minimal music. The album highlight comes early in the form of Lost Of The Lonesome. It's a sparse, hollow song that slowly opens up to a chiming, pastoral rock anthem. The lyrics tell of loneliness and love flailing in hopeless desperation and McCarthy's delivery reflects this perfectly. Their first ep was a more gentle affair than this and Anytown Graffiti shows a remarkable maturity already since 2005 with their sound rising to a more confident scale while also maintaining the soft gentleness of their earlier work. The Trouble With River Cities and the beautiful Your Desert's Not A Desert At All both reflect this sensitivity and display a compellingly understated melancholia.
Like The National, Pela's songs are full of ambiguities and wonderfully emotive lyrics that evoke strange and surreal imagery. An uneasy feeling of struggle to comprehend this modern life is very much present here but nothing is spelled out. In this thematic haze lurks paranoia, confusion and sadness but also a deep romanticism that holds this album high on its shoulders. It's a huge album but will never tell you so. It will just keep dropping hints with every listen. So here we are on the ground floor, who knows how high this thing goes but the views already pretty good from here so I'm in it for the long haul. Going up?