Coves’ stellar psych rock debut Soft Friday was a hard act to follow. Rebekah Wood’s vocals against John Ridgard’s trippy, varied arrangements made for a compelling package that received high acclaim from most critics; the boy-girl rock duo dynamic done at its best. In contrast, Peel handles things a little differently; while the quality largely remains unchanged, their sound has undergone some fine tuning.
As a whole, Peel comes off as far less cluttered and more streamlined. The wall of sound partially returns on I’m Not Here, where the guitars fight against Wood’s vocals for dominance, producing a veritable cacophony, recalling the psychedelic elements of their first album with their skittering background guitars, but the remaining nine tracks paint a different picture. Their new-found refined rock style dominates the later half, with the songs become more straightforward or subdued and allowing Wood to show off her similarly refined vocals to full effect.
The more neutral second half, sans I’m Not Here, sounds especially good when placed in contrast to the album’s livelier, sometimes experimental first half. To The Sea takes on a slower tempo with guitars blaring alongside it, but gains its unique flavour from the accompanying organ, almost recalling the vibe of their first album but still feeling very much at home on Peel. The album’s most effective track, however, is Stormy: Its light guitar riffs in the verses give the song a summer vibe, a feeling only enhanced when the song moves into its chorus and Wood sings the song’s defining hook—You see nothing but thunder in my stormy eyes—alongside a repeating drum beat and guitar flourish, pairing the summer styling with lyrics that hint at something darker.
Even though it’s easy to divide the album into two halves, it doesn’t suffer for the disconnect; the two sides complement each other perfectly, keeping the album fresh rather than having its quality drop. Despite its often simpler sound, Coves manage to keep their unique character the second time around on Peel, and in turn it makes the album all the more endearing. Even if Soft Friday was a tough act to follow, they ably managed to match its prowess.