Canadian duo build on promise of debut album with this stunning sophomore offering.
Barely three weeks into the new year and I find myself with the good fortune to be listening to an album that will surely be on many peoples best of list come the end of the year. Peach & Quiet are a singer-songwriting duo made up of Johnny Miller and Heather Read and hail from British Columbia on Canada’s west coast who delivered their debut album ‘Just Beyond The Shine’ back in January 2021 to much critical praise. Now, almost two years to the day they return with their sophomore album ‘Beautiful Thing’ that bristles with all that was garnered from their debut, exuding a greater confidence in both songwriting and delivery, sharper in its lyrical narrative and with more variety in its presentation and production which again sees Steve Dawson at the helm.
The album is made up of twelve self-penned numbers, three more than on their previous offering, but rather than diluting the overall experience it comfortably stays strong from start to finish emphasising the duo’s collective growth as writers over the last two years. Opening with the title track ‘Beautiful Thing’ the album picks up where the debut left off with the honey-dripped vocals of Miller and Read effortlessly wrapping around each other while Dawson supplies just the right amount of electric and slide guitar to spice up proceedings. The following number ‘Calgary Skyline’ is one of the many highlights on the album delivering harmonies reminiscent of the Civil Wars at their best, while there’s a strong lyrical narrative and a greater sense of urgency than was evident on their debut. Track three ‘Pockets Empty’ turns the spotlight on the nightmare of an abusive relationship and emphasises their growing confidence as Read tackles this difficult subject matter delivering an achingly astute performance that avoids any sense of self-pity. ‘Behind The Sun’ is another powerful number, with a sense of foreboding and darkness driven by Miller’s lyrical narrative along with a stunning guitar solo from Miller.
As strong as the individual songs are, it is Dawson’s sublime production that knits everything so intricately together with just the right amount of tension and release, subtlety and intensity that supplies each track with the perfect conduit to fully explore the narrative within, while the musical accompaniment enhances each song and ensures a cohesive flow from start to finish. To this end he is ably supported by Chris Gestrin on keyboards, Jeremy Holmes on bass, and Gary Craig on drums, while the album cover depicts an African Peach Moth and is dedicated to the memory of famed album designer Michael Wrycraft with whom the duo had as close relationship.
Continuing through the album and more highlights occur such as ‘Just Before The Dawn’, with a strong and heartfelt vocal performance from Read. Then there’s ‘Horse & Saddle’, followed by ‘Oklahoma Or Arkansas’, where Miller tells the tale of a man who changes his identity and though we never truly know the reason why the vagueness adds to the mystery that draws the listener in as he sings “they can search my name, but that won’t help. You’ll never find me, I’ll be someone else”. The sixties Hippie spirit is evoked with ‘Song From A Tree’ with its offering of hope and togetherness as Read sings “There is no you, there is no me. There’s only us, only we”, which brings to mind ‘Flowers Grow’ a highlight from their previous album.
This is a wonderful album littered with musical gems guaranteed to brighten up anyone’s day during this dark and so far sombre month of January. On this their second album, Peach & Quiet haven’t just confirmed the promise of their debut, they have created an album that evokes both the best of the sixties Laurel Canyon music scene with a contemporary sound full of intimacy and intrigue that should propel them towards a much wider audience, for ‘Beautiful Thing’ is indeed a thing of beauty.