by Chad Jewett
Peripheral Vision is an apt title for the sophomore LP from Virginia punk quartet Turnover. It’s an album full of things half-glimpsed, melodies that take form on the margins and pop songs that emerge from the corners, foggy around the edges. The album is coated in the specific sort of haze you spot when the sun is fighting a misty day. Peripheral Vision arrives as the latest in a mini wave of emo records metabolizing 80s shoegaze and dream-pop. Seahaven, Title Fight, Pillow Talk, even the more languid moments of Balance & Composure’s great 2013 breakthrough The Things We Think We’re Missing — all have toyed with making post-hardcore music blanketed with a fashionable murkiness on loan from Meat Is Murder (“Cutting My Fingers Off”) and Disintegration (“Take My Head”) and Nowhere (“Dizzy On The Comedown”). But Turnover has something that most of the band’s didn’t – hooks. Where the billowing gloom of 80s goth-pop made sense for the darker palette of, say, Hyperview, here there’s frustration in hearing it dampen the album’s very real tunefulness. Peripheral Vision is a guitar-pop record fighting its way out from under inclement weather.
The album has its share of catching moments, and like the best work of say, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Turnover can turn a certain kind of bleariness into easy charm. “Humming”, the album’s best track and its most warmly tuneful, offers a gripping melody and an airiness that actually buoys the song’s skipping forward motion instead of underselling it, as singer Austin Getz forms a nifty call-and-response with a jangling lead guitar in the song’s verse. Elsewhere, “Diazepam” is an intangibly comfy three minutes of middle-paced emo-haze, pairing Getz’s sing-song verses to a slight but infectious, trickling guitar. There’s a certain kind of dancing, spinning melody that pops up again and again throughout Peripheral Vision — uniting the sharper “Dizzy On The Come Down” to the near-lullaby of “Diazepam” and the woozy pop of “Take My Head” (which boasts the album’s best chorus) – that is at once delicate and playful, and which keeps the album interesting even when it most overcommits to its aesthetic makeovers. You get the sense that, at the very least, Turnover have the depth to see the fun and dark humor that energizes albums like The Queen Is Dead, records too often read only as far as their most somber, biting layers.
The chorus refrain of “Hello Euphoria” muses on feeling “so far away”, which isn’t a bad way of talking about the smoky distance that occasionally keeps the record at a remove. Turnover are gifted, classicist songwriters, craftsmen who don’t need their shadows and stylized murk the way others might. Their songs speak for themselves, and sometimes the album’s gauziness feels blurry and opaque, hiding otherwise compelling cores. The band debuted this new territory with “Cutting My Fingers Off” (which opens the album), and you get why – it boils all the stylized languor of Peripheral Vision down to an absolute, so much so that it might work better as a gesture than as a song.
At other moments, you sense that the band might be too willing to let their new aesthetic do all the talking, as on the not-quite colored-in Brit-pop of “Intrapersonal”, a song that carries Idlewild’s warm lightness but not its hooky grip (though, conversely, the Devil and God Are Raging-esque interlude “Threshold” does add texture, even if it operates as a placeholder). It’s the song that most visibly calls for the more bright, immediate textures of the band’s previous LP, Magnolia. Ultimately, Peripheral Vision balances on that distinction — at its best, the album’s midnight shimmer models its obsession with nostalgia, aging, melancholy, and confusion. “I Would Hate You If I Could”, for instance, revels in memories of “the nights we spent laughing.” It’s a theme that holds throughout, and when Peripheral Vision really works, it’s the aural equivalent of a camera lens wavering into a flashback.