What’s in the water in Philadelphia? The tributary along which Palm resides must be teeming with radioactive fuzz and psychedelic clock-guts, radiant melodies and broken metronomes, crooked Beach Boys LPs and neon Tetris pieces. How else do you explain the four-piece’s positively weird-but-maybe-not-that-weird new album Rock Island?
Palm’s bio on the Carpark Records website begins by declaring that the band “plays rock music backwards,” and that’s... well, that’s pretty much right. The guitars—played by Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt—sound like a shelf full of animatronic figures chiming and buzzing and chirping out of time with each other, but interlocking in a way that makes perfect sense. Drummer Hugo Stanley’s playing is rhythmic, of course, but also adds a textural—even melodic—layer to Palm’s songs, flitting around the guitars like a bee trying to figure out how to sting a lightning bolt. When they’re not busy making this funhouse of sounds, Palm fills in the spaces with lovely vocal melodies that recall Animal Collective. Add it all up and you’ve got one of the best and strangest pop-rock records of the year.
And if that ain’t enough to get you out of the house, consider the show’s opening act, the Spirit of the Beehive, another Philly combo with a gift for making warm, warped pop songs that zig when you expect them to zag, but always end up at a place that’s pleasing to the ear. (They made one of the best and strangest pop-rock records of last year.)