Heavy Petting, the second offering from Vancouver three-piece Pale Red, is easily one of the most delicious albums I have heard in recent years. Recorded in just two days, this album sounds far from rushed as the band creates a perfect storm of indie rock, melancholy, cheekiness and razor sharp songwriting. Pale Red plays in a slightly sloppy or “rough around the edges” style, but this makes the songs on Heavy Petting feel warm and immediate, each track digging its tendrils deeper with repeated listens.
Kicking off strong with “Leave Any Room,” an acidic tune I interpret as a final send off to to a troublesome ex turned stalker with a restraining order from lead songwriter, bass player and vocalist Charlotte Coleman. I really dig the lines, “The law is keeping us apart / And I don’t like the law / But I don’t like you more.” Album highlight, “International Waters” sees guitarist Myles Black take the lead with his elevated baritone vocals and lyrical play that hearken back to days of youth when the mind, loins and ego were still under construction. It’s a syrupy, beautiful song that descends into chaos before tightening back into its pretty guitar strum.
The album closes perfectly with “Glass Bottom Boat.” The song has an old fashioned sound that brings to mind the end scene of a ‘50s teen movie, where the leather clad rebel is speeding his car down a winding road, cigarette hanging off his bottom lip and a bottle of bourbon riding shotgun. Listening to Heavy Petting brings me back to my puppy years, navigating through the raw emotional rollercoaster, thinking that I had it all figured out and then realizing that me and my mess were no different than the rest. But from that self-absorption comes a deeper wisdom later realized. Heavy Petting speaks of that wisdom, and it appears that these musicians wear their wisdom and vulnerability like fading red welts across the heart.
Having read that Coleman, Black and drummer, Portia Boehm went to high school together and have been playing music under various names for several years explains a lot about the loose comfort they bring to their style. These aren’t just personal, emotive songs spewed out for the simple sake of making music. They come from the collaboration of friendship, experience and trust, and that to me creates a deep anchor of music I can sink into.