Since forming in Leeds in 2017, Peakes have created stately pop music which has been edging towards the more left field side of electronic pop, gradually introducing grittier textures into their sound. Their EP at the beginning of the pandemic, ‘Pre-Invented World’, was destined for great things, but it couldn’t have arrived at a worse time really.
Or at least, that’s how it looks from the outside. Once you find out a little bit more, you discover that chief songwriters Molly Puckering and Maxwell Shirley, effectively without any promotion to do for a recently released EP, made the bold call to about turn and use their time to write an album rather than wait around for restrictions to be lifted. And possibly because of this stunted growth, what they’ve created is one of the underground records of the year, largely away from prying eyes. The kind of record that sounds like a band that has found their own voice without any harmful interference.
There are some absolutely killer songs on ‘Peripheral Figures’, all three of the singles, ‘An Infinite Divide’, ‘Day & Age’ and ‘Lately’ combine pulsing rhythms with hook-laden choruses and deeply thought out, meticulously recorded synths to stunning effect. But away from the singles is where you really enter Peakes’ world, ‘Circular State’ has a Kate Bush moment that tugs the heart as Puckering sings “Do we still know how to disengage”, a moment that pleasingly only occurs a couple of times in the song.
From the album title, through the lyrics above and in other songs such as ‘Nameless Machines’ and ‘Clouds’ there is a vivid and potent sense of isolation that has always been in Peakes' best work; not the type of isolation we’ve all been through recently, but the individual sense of detachment from the world at large you can only get when it looks like everyone else is having fun.
That’s not to say that the album isn’t fun, there are definitely songs you could imagine belting out at an indie disco, and ‘Fascination’ has Kraftwerkian moments throughout. But this is largely serious music for people that like to be absorbed in an album, and for those types, there won’t be many better opportunities than sticking on ‘Peripheral Figures’ this year.
Words: Nicolas Graves
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