Grainy, grating guitars, stop-start time signatures, to-and-fro vocal harmonies; there’s little doubt that the New York post-punk scene is where Palberta call home. Recently however, something has changed. Namely, the trio have dialed up the pop.
Over the course of a handful of full-length records and numerous shorter releases, the trio of Ani Ivory-Block, Lily Konigsberg, and Nina Ryser have provided an able bridge between purity and discord. Calling to mind the irreverent punk of early Blink-182 and The Stroppies’ aloof and melancholy indie, as well as local post-punk acts in the vein of Parquet Courts, Palberta’s knack for slotting their dainty harmonies amongst a wiry tangle of guitars and drums has cultivated a status as firm favourites in the East Coast DIY scene. The release of “Corner Store”, a recent single from Palberta5000, however, suggested a change was afoot. Cleaner playing, gleaming vocals, an a capella harmony; this was seemingly a considered move into something new.
Throughout Palberta5000, that new manifests itself in ways beyond the brighter vocal arrangements. While the record continues to boast a long track list and short song lengths, Palberta have also expanded upon their love of jams and cyclical song structures. “Red Antz” in particular warrants its repetitive style, the trio’s vocals entrancing in their lightness and their playing in its buoyancy. “All Over My Face” and “Fragile Place”, while not earning their extended plays (by Palberta’s standards), similarly embody the band’s willingness to push their music further than on previous records.
Lyrically, they continue to concern themselves with the minutiae of the everyday, whether that be seeing a friend at the corner store (or indeed on the front of the Sunday Times), as on “Corner Store”, or the never-ending anxiety derived from deciphering your wants on “Big Bad Want”. No topic is too mundane, perhaps best evidenced by the rollicking “Eggs n’ Bac’”. Nor at times is a topic even necessary. As the calls of “Hey!” dart out from the noodling instrumentation, constituting the only lyric and title of one of the album’s most intriguing tracks, it’s hard not to revel in the quirky joy that has defined the band’s sound to date.
All of this is however encased within the core Palberta themes of friendship and companionship. The band have mentioned in interviews how their primary source for song topics is that of the relationship between the three of them, and this intimate proximity to their inspiration is felt throughout the record. Whether featured explicitly within song topics, as articulated on the frustrated “Before I Got Here”, or via the trickle-down effect of the trio’s own close-knit friendship on tracks such as “Eggs n’ Bac’”, the influence of community and human relationships throughout Palberta5000 is everywhere. Their taut, increasingly pristine post-punk practically screams the benefits of cooperation, a welcome notion at a time mired by the effects of separation and isolation.
Whether Palberta5000 marks a serious shift in trajectory or simply a temporary diversion then perhaps isn’t so clear. It’ll be down to future releases to determine how significant the changes exhibited here end up being. What it undoubtedly is however is a tentative sidestep, keeping one foot firmly in New York post-punk while allowing the other to wander towards sunnier, more refined pastures. An alternative route that, while not always trodden in style, Palberta have nevertheless proven they’re more than adept at taking.