In a recent interview, college student, pizza deliverer, and singer-songwriter Noah Rawlings asserts that “the only use of introspection is to find out how you can connect with and relate to others. There is little sense to introspection for its own sake. It is good to look outward.” This tenet turns out to be central to Rawlings’ sophomore full-length under his Sunshine Faces moniker. The eleven-track long Peaked combines intimate, dorm-room shoegaze with bright, exuberant pop, giving us a peak not only into Rawlings’ inner thoughts but also into his circle of friends, his community, and his home.
The details in both Sunshine Faces’ material and presentation are what truly make the project shine. Shoutouts to Rawlings’ friends and contributors on the album (“Teddy wrote the guitar *riff* for track 2, ‘Kissing Every Day.’ Thanks ted.”) occupy a large chunk of space on his Bandcamp page, highlighting a sense of unabashed generosity and support that went into the making of the record. Familiar faces and places flit by on tracks like “Peak City,” a sugary confection of a pop ditty paying homage to a grill and bar in Rawlings’ home state of North Carolina. “Walt Saves the Scene” features what seems to be an emphatic champion of Rawlings’ work proclaiming that “it’s about taking risks, it’s about holding on to what you fucking believe in… it’s about what you know deep down in your heart is good.” Rawlings himself, meanwhile, makes use of his most scintillating track to date, “Kissing Every Day,” to happily declare that he’s “Glad to have you / Glad you even hang around.”
These sorts of familiar vignettes create a warm, welcoming feeling that permeates every track on Peaked, including its more introverted numbers. “Time Regained” for example, is a dreamy, Slowdive-esque rumination, while “A Repetition” builds on a poignant, piano-based melody with Rawlings murmuring “People are the only thing.” Elsewhere, “(Drowsy)” is a quick, hazy tune, backed by some very ’80s clapping percussion so that it feels like a moment stolen to oneself in the middle of a friend’s cheesy house party. Rawlings deftly pairs his affinity for ambient noise with his talent for writing catchy hooks, landing somewhere in the sweet spot between My Bloody Valentine and The Radio Dept.
Undoubtedly, Sunshine Faces is as “bedroom” as pop can possibly get—lo-fi and fuzzed-out, as though we were listening to a neighbor’s music from the next room over—but there’s nothing gloomy or lonely about these songs. Peaked is the product of someone who is content and grateful for it, so sincere that we feel an immediate sense of kinship to these songs and their simpatico creator. True to his word, Rawlings reaches outward at the same time that he gazes inward, exploring the connections within his own world and, as only the best art will do, establishing one with us along the way.