Marissa Paternoster’s Peace Meter finds the fiery guitarist from Screaming Females forgoing blister raising solos and guttural yelps in favor of dark pop efforts with haunting vibrations and experimental flourishes. The record displays a more nuanced side of the artist, focusing on her singing, sonic layering, and a lot less rock and roll.
The first single “White Dove” kicks the album off on a strong note as the warbling slow burn of the track increases around a booming bass drum that juxtaposes nicely with Marissa’s gorgeously heightened vocals. Written and recorded in the time of Covid-19 quarantines with friends Andy Gibbs (THOU), Shanna Polley (Snakeskin) and Kate Wakefield (Lung) contributing remotely, the oppressive isolation and longing are confronted in songs like the claustrophobic “Sore.”
While there is a sense of despair floating through the record, there is also hope as ominous dance-laden tracks are a recurring theme on Peace Meter. “Black Hole” uses hip-shaking pounding with snaking guitar lines, while “I Lost You” plays with repetition of lyrics around swirling, climbing, new wave sounds before “Running” lets the skitter/slapping programmed beat bang hard as the track pulses vibrantly; a full-on EDM remix for any of these seems ripe to go completely over the top.
Lyrically Paternoster is dealing with the push and pull of relationships during uncertain times, from line to line physical contact is requested, or letting go is necessitated. The acoustic ballad “Balance Beam” searches for meaning while the dreamy layers of strings and sounds on closer “Promise” look towards future assurances which never come. “Shame” starts with chimes and odd clanging until deep bass warps things, sweeter sounds float to the top, progressing around overloaded electro blasts and soothing backing vocals resulting in an all-around gorgeous effort on a record that displays quite a few of those.
This is not the first solo effort from Paternoster who has been writing and recording as Noun for over a decade now, but it is the first to feature her name. That speaks volumes as in the past Paternoster has stated she didn’t want her name to become synonymous with a project that she may not identify with fully in the future. Peace Meter is the work of a confident, constantly evolving artist grappling with a changing world and evolving personal sound successfully.