THIS MUST BE ART
A Comprehensive Review of Peter McPoland’s Debut EP, Slow Down.
words by Rachel Owen
Indie-alternative musician Peter McPoland released his debut EP this past Friday on May 13, 2022. McPoland found early success through TikTok, promoting hits like Romeo & Juliet, (Here’s to the) Prom Queen, and Eloise on the platform. In the spring of 2021, McPoland was signed to Columbia Records, marking the true beginning of his professional career. Currently concluding his second sold-out national headlining tour, McPoland has taken the world of indie music by storm. His debut EP, comprised of seven songs, began with String Lights (released on January 14th) and subsequent singles dropping periodically up until the full release of Slow Down in mid-May.
The EP opens with String Lights, a ballad dedicated to the nostalgic and somewhat painful passage of time. The tale begins with a vivid recall of a fond memory complete with visuals and names of those present; however fond this memory is communicated to be, the lyrics are laced with an ache only to be described as yearning sentimentality. McPoland articulates what many people cannot: a deep-rooted fear of the inevitable act of aging. The song builds and concludes with a haunting repetition of the phrase “everything ends.” This simple, yet poignant statement perfectly encapsulates the feeling of optimism paired with uncertainty — something that is often felt throughout one’s formative years of young adulthood. Beginning the EP with String Lights creates an ingenious oxymoron, opening the album with the expression of its end.
The second track on the album, Come Around, is dedicated to young love. This anthem urges the subject to recognize their own beauty through the eyes of the narrator. McPoland creates a personal connection with listeners prompting them with rhetorical questions and detailed imagery. Come Around presents playful and youthful ideas of mischief and naive existentiality that are the prerogative of young adults. The highlight of this song is the bridge, where McPoland introduces his ability to accelerate his music to a rock-reminiscent style. Through bellows of “If I ever die, If I ever die, I’ll die loving you for the rest of my life,” the audience gets a taste of McPoland’s untamed exuberance. The desperate wail of affection is nothing short of exhilarating, concluding the song on an intoxicating high.
After the extreme climax of Come Around, Let Her Remember brings McPoland’s audience back to earth, and back to reality. The song expresses that the truth in young love lies within the destruction of its existence, often leading to the demise of sanguine youthfulness. A ballad dedicated to young heartbreak, it is the inverse of the preceding song; Come Around prepared audiences for crushes and first loves, whereas Let Her Remember anecdotally proves the very juvenility of falling for someone in adolescence. Let Her Remember opens with a theme of timid possibility, woven with dishonest uncertainty; the narrator describes the event in perfect detail, but shields their heart with I thinks that eventually morph into definite I knows. To the glorious surprise of McPoland fans, he intertwines lyrics from his earlier song “I Love You Too,” into the second verse, deepening the meaning of both ballads and calling back to his roots. The track concludes with the statement “I guess you’ve forgotten,” absent of the “too” it had included in the prior verses. Let Her Remember is delicately devastating, revealing more of its story with each listen, ultimately making it one of the best tracks on the album.
The fourth track is the titular Slow Down: another testament to the passage of time and the pain it can cause. Slow Down articulates the experience of how fast life can progress. Lyrically, this song is vulnerable and raw–proclamations of “You better slow down, or I might go insane,” communicate to his audience the whiplash of success. Intermixed with his expression of being overwhelmed, is an undeniable adoration for music. “And then this must be art / I see relief and I hear alarms” is assumed to be his discovery of the creation of music providing solace in his hectic life. Sonically, this song is a masterpiece; the careful presentation of the verses combined with the heavy release of the chorus creates a push-and-pull contrast that is nearly impossible not to lose oneself in. The final chorus features a rest that feels like free-falling, hesitating just a moment before diving into the depths of the final defiant chant of “You better slow down.” Slow Down is a marvelous piece of art that escalates, builds, layers, and accelerates directly into track five, Mary Anne.
Mary Anne provides a moment of unbridled joy within the complex emotions surrounding this track. Hidden within the lyrics of this piece are articulations of what one can enjoy if they just “slow down.” Throughout the song, the narrator urges the character of Mary Anne to “smell all the flowers,” “take a deep breath,” and “sing.” They continue by preaching the comforting and positive notions of inevitability and heartbreak, and the freedom that can come with both. This song features a ¾ time signature, giving it striking resemblance to a waltz–which only adds to the sonic joy pouring through its production. Mary Anne joins the discography of songs that build to a climax at their end; it speeds up dramatically, having an oxymoronic effect on the concluding lyrics “Slow down for me.” It is a perfectly placed strike of delight within the whirlwind of heavy emotions that encompass its former and latter album counterparts.
Dead Air takes the role of track six, illuminating the album with a very unique, very concise love song. Immediately, Dead Air has a divergent sound, highlighting masterful layering and stronger percussive melodies than McPoland’s previous tracks. While this song is also dedicated to the act of falling in love, Dead Air proclaims it in a much more aggressive fashion, featuring exclamations of profanity and graphic lyrics. McPoland once again masters the art of complimentary variance, as the song goes from blunt and intense, to a soothing refrain of believing in love. This song is a testament to what McPoland can accomplish sonically, and how much diversity he can implement into his music; Dead Air is easily the most unique on the album and provides ample reason to trust in McPoland’s musical experimentation.
Slow Down concludes with what is arguably the best song McPoland has released. News at 9 is the most emotive and chilling song that resides on this EP. Beginning with the lyrics, News at 9 vocalizes deep and raw pain; the meaning of this song is shrouded within the metaphors of the lyrics, but entraps the audience so deeply that the true meaning is not necessary for empathy to be felt. While the lyrics to this anthem are poignant and stunning, it is within the musical production that the true genius lies. Beginning with a serendipitous ambulance siren, News at 9 immediately captures the hearts of the audience with emotional response. McPoland launches into the first verse, belting with the most emotionally rich voice he has ever presented; between intentionally placed rasp and his otherwise polished voice, McPoland leads the lament to the bridge, wailing the devastating lyrics “I tried, I know I did.” While continuing to build to the pinnacle of a final verse, the percussion dances with his chants to create the most positively overwhelming orchestra of emotion and stimulation. In the final moments of the anthem, McPoland’s voice becomes soft, and the percussion drops out, leaving the audience with a final moment of peace indicating the resolution and end of the album. News at 9 is undoubtedly the greatest track on the album combining raw emotion with undefinable talent, to create a magnificent symphony of passion.
Peter McPoland has created an album rich with emotion, story-telling, and inventive musicianship. Slow Down marks the first major release in McPoland’s career, proving further just how much potential he holds. It is uncommon for a musician of such youth in both career and age to debut an album with such triumphant artistic success, and yet McPoland has proven it can be done. His seven magnificent tracks are an indication of what he can do, and has secured his spot amongst the greatest up-and-coming artists of the current generation.