Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Favorite Track: "Wish You Well" Least Favorite Track: "Old Wounds"
Browsing the music rating forum Album of the Year frequently has seemed to set me up with a multitude of artists that I previously would have never thought to listen to. Holly Humberstone, Moses Sumney, Crack Cloud, and my latest discovery, PVRIS. Spearheaded by the remarkably talented Lynn Gunn, PVRIS seem to have paved their own lane in the pop rock scene, blending elements of emo, synth-pop, small bits of hip-hop and industrial, and their most recent commercial effort, Use Me, is a wonderfully produced amalgamation of these styles.
While the album clearly shows that PVRIS can be versatile in their own right, they tend to stick to one sound. Not to say that this sound doesn’t work for them, because on tracks like “Good To Be Alive” and “Wish You Well”, it is pulled off remarkably well. The driving synths on both tracks keep you pumped, and the latter of the two pulls so much funk from the bassline I don’t think I’ve stopped grooving since the first second I pressed play. However, even though most of the songs on this record sound great at their core, they tend to run a little formulaic in structure. Nearly every song on this LP has its own distinct style, but they also all trend towards the exact same “chorus-verse-chorus” structure. This leaves some of the record feeling a little samey, even if the bones of these tracks by themselves are different. The stretch of my three favorite songs on the LP, “Good To Be Alive”, “Death Of Me”, and “Hallucinations”, all manage to blend together, even if each of the songs sound fantastic as a singular entity.
Nonetheless, the instrumentals and production across this project are nothing short of stellar. The aforementioned “Good To Be Alive” has some of the best sounding drums I have heard on any song this year, they are so in the pocket and groovy that they pull me in and don’t let go for a second. The album is very heavily driven by synths, most of them sounding dark and almost haunting, but they maintain an alluring aura that makes you feel interested in the darkness. The lyrics across Use Me tend to reflect that darkness in a way that is still quite accessible, like on the title track to the record, where Gunn tells a lover to use her and take another hit, making herself out to be addictive like cigarettes, but still satisfying enough to continue being used. Other tracks have similarly dark takes on new relationships and love, such as “Death Of Me” and the hauntingly defeatist “Loveless”.
PVRIS pulls together a number of influences on this record, sounding a lot like some of their alt/pop rock counterparts such as Twenty One Pilots or IDKHow, but they still somehow manage to never sound derivative or uninspired, even if some of the tracks manage to fall flat due to underwritten verses or heavy reliance on a catchy chorus. With their dark, synth-pop/hard rock influenced style, they manage to create a woefully dark record in tone, but maintain the catchiness they need to gain mainstream appeal at the expense of some of the writing. In short, this record will appeal to the casual listener who isn’t actively looking for something to critique, as the majority of the songs are expertly produced and mixed and Gunn manages to blow me away entirely on tracks like “Wish You Well”, and someone actively looking for something wrong still won’t manage to find much.