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  Peekaboo Records  
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Peel are a 5 piece band from Austin, whom EvilSponge first discovered several years back at SxSW during a Peekaboo Records barbeque. Since that time, they changed out a few members, released an album, went on tour, and I managed to miss all of it. Well, I knew about the album, but the folks who recommended it to me are not those to whom I listen. And I knew they played Atlanta on tour, but there was no way I was toddling out on a week night to one of my least favorite local venues. Anyway, earlier this year, we re-established our nodding acquaintance with this band when we saw them put on two excellent sets at SxSW 2008. In fact, I was so impressed, I went ahead and bought their record, if only to hear it for myself

And after listening to this self-titled record, I have to say I'm glad I purchased it. It's a real "grower", as our European writers might say. The album begins with Oxford, a nicely laid back, but driving, pop tune distinguished by some nicely high-pitched keyboard work, courtesy of Allison Moore. Layered with vocal and guitar echoes, this song seemed driven by the low-end drumming and basswork which propels the song forward to a too fast conclusion. Afterwards, Bells continues the keyboard-driven sound, albeit this time with more a summery, psychedelic edge. It's sort of like the older work of Atlanta's Silent Kids, albeit with the vocals more buried in the mix and the keys more prominent. Still, this tune has that same quickish drumwork that doesn't allow things to get too noodly or off-track.

The next song, In the City, is more of a straight up 70s-style rocker, punctuated by any number of chord changes, and semi-shouted vocals that bring to mind Marc Bolan or the like. Therefore, it's a bit surprising when the next tune, Sliding Doors begins as a slightly mournful dirge with a pretty, country-like backing guitar riff that sounds like it should be played on a slide. Nevertheless, like their other songs, Sliding Doors is linked back to Peel's sound with those layers of effects and the constant tinkle of the keys. And as the music pauses and the band begins to chant, "Going to start living the right way; I'm setting my mind on someday," the song becomes more hopeful and less mournful. This happier note leads directly into Workers, Wake Up, a bouncy tune that seems anthemic in the beginning. However, about halfway through the song, the music swells into an almost discordant multi-part harmony before it coming back to the primary, more-catchy melody. And after another round the music swells one final time as it breaks apart, revealing horns, keys, and guitars bouncing off each other. It's a nicely done piece, which shows off the layers of instrumentation which characterizes Peel's sound.

After the happy, tinkling 1949, which flows along like Oxford, the band presents Moxie Blues, which is perhaps the quickest tune on the record. Just like the previous tune recalled one of their earlier songs, this one recalls In the City, albeit with more of a garage-y feel, before there is a complete psychedelic guitar freak-out towards the end of the song. Then it's time for the tune graced with the best title on the album, the more country-esque Love Soaked in Blood. This may be one of my favorite songs on the record, because behind the country acoustic melody, Peel adds a bouncy drumbeat, occasional keyboard bloops, and a singalong chorus that lifts it so far above that "country" moniker. Likewise, Someone's Cousin begins as a garagey noise fest, then adds layer upon layer of snare-y drums and a driving bass riff to recall something more punk-y than glam.

On the next to last tune of the record, Tejax, Peel bring all their musical elements together into one place. There's the strummed acoustic guitar, the slightly mournful vocals, the pretty keys, the guitar effects, and the dominant low end. And taken as a whole, this song sort of represents how the band can take the part you've heard before and turn into a completely melded "soup". This holistic blend continues through the last song, Navy Waves. Less acoustic than the previous tune, Navy Waves is in some ways more forward looking, as the music blend swells upwards, allowing each musical element to become dominant in turn. It's perhaps the most expansive of their tunes, and perhaps the one that reminds me of those sets I saw in Austin earlier this year.

All in all, Peel is a good little record that shows a young band finding its voice. Having heard the record nearly a year after its release, and after having heard their live set, it can't help but be a little of a letdown, since Peel the band have progressed musically beyond much of this document. Yet, taken for its own merits, as I indicated earlier, it's definitively a grower, especially if you like densely-packed instrumentation across tunes that don't fit a single definitive genre. Still, I can't wait to hear any of the band's future release, if only to hear how they've followed up with the promise of Peel.

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