Lush orchestration helps this strong debut stand out
This album was made to be cuddled with, like a teddy bear. Eliza Callahan and Jack Staffen, the songwriting partners behind Purr, are of the sentimental type; the bubbly melodies that populate their band’s endearing debut, Like New, sound like they’ve been pulled straight out of a rainbow. The record was written in New York City (Callahan and Staffen are proud natives), but it’s much more suited to the warm Los Angeles climate where it was recorded. Like New is a vacation in that sense. It’s not very ambitious, but then again, nobody on the beach needs much more than a view of the ocean.
The band’s key asset is Jonathan Rado of Foxygen, who’s earned some production credits through his work with Whitney and The Lemon Twigs. His signature retro touch injects life into each of his projects, giving listeners an idea of what would happen if Carole King ever wrote bedroom pop. He’s an excellent fit for Purr, whose musical inspirations span from Supertramp to bossa nova to Jefferson Airplane. With this much nostalgia, you just might be able to summon the ghost of Ed Sullivan.
For a couple of twenty-somethings, Callahan and Staffen can really nail an emotional chorus. The bells alone in “Hard to Realize” will melt your heart – according to the liner notes on Bandcamp, the exact same set was used in the soundtrack to the original King Kong. The track is supported by flutes and a romantic guitar, capturing a sense of magic and intimacy. Listening to this song feels as natural as breathing air.
“Hard to Realize” is one of the best moments in Like New, but not by much. “Avenue Bliss” opens with a smooth jazz-inspired groove before exploding into a kinetic disco spin, proving that Purr doesn’t mind braving the dancefloor. “Wind” is an impressive showcase for the band’s vocal talent, recalling the Beach Boys’ minimalist style of harmonization. “Take You Back” is a song tailored to the jubilant streets of the city, energized by a playful standoff between a bouncy piano and a charismatic keyboard.
Like New occasionally dips into pseudo-pastiche (see the tongue-in-cheek music video for “Avenue Bliss”), but even when the band pokes fun at how their influences have aged, they maintain an inoffensive, almost child-like demeanor. Their music is very likable, not only because it is well made, but also because it’s woven together with innocence and sincerity.
For now, Purr is content to keep their work short and sweet. The songs on Like New could have been a little longer; they’re mostly three minutes, which feels abbreviated for a band who knows what they’re doing. If quality must be accepted over quantity, however, then so be it. A friendly album is welcome enough, but a friendly debut is what earns a band it’s following.