PVRIS: ‘White Noise’ Album Review

PVRIS (pronounced Paris) released the details of new album White Noise at the start of October to an apprehensive fan base. Prior to the announcement, a video for the song “St. Patrick” had been released which seemed to indicate a move into electronic pop; a jarring transition from the up-tempo, alternative rock sound of their self-titled EP, released in 2012. White Noise certainly is a shift in genre and it successfully unites elements of pop and alternative music to create a thoroughly rewarding experience that provides fans on each side of the genre spectrum with plenty to enjoy.

Almost immediately, the quality of the vocals becomes a core feature of the album. Singer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, who is also credited with the record’s song-writing, has a beautiful tone that not only conveys emotion but also attitude and personality. What’s more impressive than the sound of her voice though, is the way she uses it. Gunnulfsen proves throughout White Noise that she has a terrific ear for melody; the vocal arrangements have been structured in a way that delivers maximum impact in every song, not just in the choruses but every verse and bridge as well. Pop songs are renowned for having solid choruses, and that’s predominantly where the focus is kept, leaving the verses to serve as exposition before the next one. On White Noise none of the vocals feel disposable, each melody has been carefully arranged to deliver memorable passages, draped in emotion. This level of substance gives the record more sustainability than simply having Gunnulfsen use her excellent vocals as a weapon for firing out catchy choruses.

Musically as well, this album has been well conceived. Electronic music can have a habit of becoming repetitive due to the tendency to use static drum loops and repetitive samples which can become monotonous over the course of a full album. PVRIS have used their past experience in alternative music to prevent White Noise from stagnating. The drums are varied throughout the songs rather than being looped, even during songs where they’re predominantly programmed, and the use of synthesised keyboards and electronic effects have been balanced with a healthy dose of distorted and ambient guitar work. This combination of tones is complimented by multiple tempos, capturing differences in mood from fast to slow, and ambient to heavy, all of which helps to add variety to the album.

The record was produced by Blake Harnage, co-founder of the band Versa (formerly known as VersaEmerge) and his fellow Versa comrade Sierra Kusterbeck lends her voice to harmonies on the album. The production is well polished and adds to the overall effect of the album, helping to maintain an appropriate blend between the pop and rock elements of the band’s new sound. The electronic effects never feel overwhelming but rather compliment the analogue guitars and drums, allowing enough of the alternative-rock influence to shine through.

Rather than polarising pop and rock fans, White Noise has the ability to transcend both genres and sit comfortably in the middle. The balance of both aspects has been executed perfectly, providing sufficient musical integrity and attitude to please an alternative-rock crowd, while offering a plethora of catchiness and vocal hooks to appease fans of electronic pop. It’s a fantastic achievement and one that I hope enables them to reach a wide audience as a result.