After eight dreamy years of inspiring musical creations, Pearl and the Beard offer up their third and final studio album, Beast. A precious and alluring parting gift, the trendy trio leave behind a feel good album filled with pop grandeur and luscious harmonies.
The New York based band comprises of the multi-instrumentalist Emily Hope Price, percussionist Jocelyn MacKenzie and guitarist Jermey Styles, all of whom take turn on lead vocals and song writing. The entire album is conceptually bold: rooted in folk, but moving towards pop, flinging you happily into a summer haze. Pushing its way out of this daydream is a darker rockier sound, most prominently heard when Jocelyn, a vocalist with extra horsepower, roars along to the percussion driven album opener ‘You’. Since their first record God Bless Your Weary Souls, Amanda Richardson, the trio have shown their love for rock, both live and in studio, but this opener sees the band rock out more than ever before.
Lead vocals are traded between the girls on Again Animal, later met with a vocal riff coming from Jocelyn’s lower and steamier range. Not only is the break from the song catchy and uplifting, the riff takes the trio to the borders of country, resembling a subtle and incredibly nifty yodel. The meaning and soul placed behind every word is particularly brought to light in Good Death. With lyrics such as ‘Give me the good death/Because I’ve called it willingly’ and ‘Loss is always where you look last’, the band reach a new depth of sorrow and pain, showing the great span of their musical intuition and poetic gift. Darker offerings come in the form of James, a song which tells the story of a page ripped from a book, a journey on the back of an elephant, the meeting of a man and woman, and the woman’s demise. The repeated line ‘James, release me’ – which receives intense gradual support from the cello, guitar, percussion and vocal harmony – is chilling and slightly unsettling, which was almost certainly the intention.
Devils Head Down and Anything sees Jeremy taking the lead and although they not as immediately infectious, with a little patience there is great beauty to be found therein. Take Me Over is a fierce standout track that could easily slip into todays Top 20; straight-up pop-folk resembling the work of Monsters and Men and The Civil Wars.
The opening line of Oculus ‘It was not the moon/It was a big stupid oculus’ exposes not only their humour but a step away from rhyme and clever words that makes the song so endearing. A reminder it is the risks taken by Pearl and the Beard that are the true pay-off moments in the album, their final being the bold choice, given its somber sound, of Such a Fool for the album closer.
The band announced that the reason to split is grounded in their creative differences. Perhaps it was these differences that created the wonder that is Pearl and the Beard. With intentions to follow their own paths, undeniably the solo careers of the three members are promising. For those lucky enough to live in New York City, the trio will be performing their final show at the Ballroom Bowery on November 19. For the rest of us, all that is left to do is sit back, enjoy the album and hope for a comeback.
Review by: Kim Carnie