Every once in a while, I come across a record that can hold my attention—to the exclusion of all other music—for weeks at a time. Whether this is because it meshes snugly with my emotional state, or just happens to be a phenomenally great album (I go through this phase with The National’s Boxer every few months), it’s always accompanied by a feeling that nothing else can quite scratch the same itch. It’s frustrating, in a way, because I know that most of the time it ends with me getting sick to death of the thing and never being able to enjoy it as much in the future. But in the case of Peripheral Vision, the sophomore LP from Virginia Beach pop-punk group Turnover, I think I’ve found one of the rare ones with perennial staying power.
Unlike a lot of initially captivating acts, the band’s appeal lies in their approachability. Their lyrics deal with subjects that are almost universally relatable (at least for us neurotic millennials), like bitter breakups, addiction, resenting our compulsive need for social acceptance, and grasping at little moments of euphoria from the depths of depression. That all sounds very abstract and philosophical, I know, but Turnover channels their punk roots to present them with disarming candor.
Take “I Would Hate You If I Could,” for example. There’s nothing particularly academic about the lines “Can I erase from my mind / Anything that you said / Or any time that we spent with each other / I don’t want to waste away another cell on memory / When you’re just another meaningless lover.” But they speak to something we’ve all experienced: the terrifying realization that, when a relationship ends, you have to start all over again from scratch. It’s heartbreaking, especially when stated so matter-of-factly.
Beyond the poignant lyrics, though, Turnover’s sound is utterly infectious. They certainly draw on both pop punk and post-punk influences, but the instrumentation isn’t nearly as punchy as either would suggest. The transitions are smooth, and Austin Getz’s vocals blend with the guitars flawlessly. His voice is understated and unpretentious, elevating the other sounds rather than shouting over the top of them. There’s a general softness and warmth to the album that’s hard to describe—even the digital version feels like listening to vinyl. Add to that the band’s uncannily catchy melodies, and you’re left with a truly absorbing record.
While Peripheral Vision is a melancholy piece of music, it doesn’t run into the melodramatic pitfalls of something like Bloc Party’s breakup-opus Intimacy. The point isn’t to be a tear-jerker. Turnover is blunt, but empathetic, and doesn’t seem content to wallow. This is an airing of timeless emotional grievances, and by confronting each we can see a genuine desire to overcome them. This may be the beginning of a softer derivative of punk, one that’s defined less by anger than by vulnerability.
But regardless of all that high-minded prognostication, Peripheral Vision has proven to be one of my absolute favorites of the year so far. Even if you’re not a compulsive wreck, it deserves your attention.
Peripheral Vision is out now on Run For Cover Records.