Promised Land Sound Runs The Gamut From The Dead to Big Star on ‘ For Use and Delight’ (ALBUM REVIEW)


promisedland albumPromised Land Sound has been a band to get excited about since their self-titled 2013 debut. A revivalist band in many ways, their sound is hugely referential running the gamut from the Beatles to the Dead to Big Star to The Byrds, and zeroing in on psychedelic pop rock that could easily have come out of a garage in the late sixties. Now, having honed their sound to perfection, PSL emerges with their follow-up, For Use and Delight.

Delight finds the youthful members of PSL focusing hard on creating smart pop hooks that are more polished than their raucous debut. Delight is a mature outing well beyond its time, with refined sensibilities in guitar playing and vocals. If you wanted to characterize PSL as alt-country before, you will find that they have evolved into much more sophisticated territory. Their references are thoughtful and classic, and their melodies are catchy and mesmerizing. Their guitar jamming is carefully crafted, making for some truly mind-altering solos in a kind of psych pop maze they create for us to wander through as we listen.

Vocally, this record is significantly softer, more delicate and controlled. “Through the Seasons” is one of many standouts, with its wandering, ethereal sound that seems to almost float. A song not just about the literal changing of the seasons, but that also tackles much grander ideas about life’s constant changes. The electric guitar that permeates through the melody adds a wildness to this song, and is sure to remain wedged in your brain long after you listen. It is no surprise that guitar whiz Steve Gunn has worked with the band.

Unforgettable melodies pop up frequently on Delight, especially on “Oppression”, a similarly soft and lovely tune that brings PSL’s vintage aesthetic to the forefront. It’s impossible to be bothered by their borrowing when it sounds this tight and defined. Singer Peter Stringer-Hye hits reedy notes that are a cross between John Lennon and Bob Dylan, and guitarist Sean Thompson again leaves us with a melody we can’t shake as this tune builds to an epic finale.

Delight displays a much broader range for PSL, exhibiting their ballad and love song skills and venturing into darker corners. “Canfield Drive” gives off a hazy mist with its dark other worldly sound, and “Golden Child” is frenetic and electric. And “She Takes Me There” is a swooning romance, complete with all the drama that comes with young love and heartbreak. Flowers wilt, clocks unwind, and someone goes insane. The instrumentals move seamlessly between dreamy and manic, creating a grand, sweeping song that is one of the true gems of Delight.

“North Country Scene” is another serene, lush number with rich, honeyed harmonies that are mystical and warm. “My age it knows no bounds/Like the maple tree,” Stringer-Hye sings, amidst this trippy atmospheric soundscape. And on their seven-minute epic “Within Sight”, a dreamy, fluid song, PSL confronts fear and moving toward something bigger. “Piercing the sky with visions unperceived,” Stringer-Hye sings. “Falling without a sound/running from what I’ve found…Whatever’s going up/Must come down.”

This one builds and evolves into a more menacing sound, like running right into the eye of a storm, before emerging back into the light, the guitar scowling as it goes. It is the most forthright evidence of how Delight feels so far from the first record. And in this case, it seems to be a sign that it is the album PSL deeply wanted to make. You can hear an intense passion in these songs, and the fact that they are freely using their creative license to expand their sound in this much wider space is impressive.

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