Peter Donovan Pens Character-Driven, Genre-crossing Tunes on Solo Debut ‘This Better Be Good’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Photo credit: Nikki Barron

After a decade spent fronting the Seattle-based indie band All The Real Girls, Peter Donovan is finally out with his first solo effort, an impressive collection of character-driven songs that manages to be more personal than any of his previous efforts. His knack for storytelling brings to mind everyone from Springsteen to Randy Newman, but musically there’s not one obvious influence to the tracks on This Better Be Good, as he slips in an out of genres seamlessly from pop and rock to folk and Americana; the one consistency throughout is simply great songwriting.

The album opens on the title track, a steady roots rocker that brings to mind folks like Tom Petty and Pete Droge and quickly moves to the piano-based “Sweet Trouble,” one of the most endearing songs on the record and the one that best exploits his impressively emotional vocals. The song is about the early stages of a romance when passions and chemistry are high. In contrast, “Goodbye For Now” catches a couple at the end of their relationship. The record ends with the impossibly catchy singalong “If I Knew Then,” another song looking back at a busted relationship, not in anger or regret, but more in a matter of fact detachment.   

At the beginning of the pandemic, as we were all starting to adjust to the isolation of quarantining, Donovan started passing the time with his friends by trying to learn a new Beatles song each day. They would record the results on their phones and upload the videos to a social media page they called ‘Breakfast With The Beatles’.  He learned 55 Beatles songs, but more importantly, he finally felt inspired enough to start writing his own songs again – setting another goal of one a day. The end result is This Better Be Good.

The album was recorded – mostly live – in just three days, with minimal overdubs resulting in a record that manages to be surprisingly cohesive and polished (without being too slick), but still captures the immediacy of a band that is hitting its stride. In addition to this solo album and his work with All The Real Girls, almost exactly a year ago Donovan put out a record with his side project The Rose Petals. 

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