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Peasant – Shady, Retreat
Shady, Retreat - Paper Garden Records
Peasant, the one man indie project of the prolific Damien Nicholas DeRose, has been charming the underground with soft folk melodies ever since his debut five years ago. While I’m not terribly familiar with the soloist, his latest release, Shady, Retreat, has proven exemplary of his firm grasp of creating fully realized soundscapes much in the vein of Fleet Foxes or Damien Jurado. Simply put, there’s no better time than the present for an introduction to Peasant.
Taken as a whole, Shady Retreat is a calming listen that finds strength rooted in very familiar sounds. In other words, you won’t find many distinct tunes or memorable melodies here, but rather a lush soundscape of fantastically lofty, yet ultimately melancholy, acoustic offerings. Tracks like “Into The Woods,” “The Distance,” and “The End” feel like the soundtrack to a cool autumn jaunt down a secluded inlet boardwalk. Behind DeRose’s soft layered vocals, the gentle plucking of backing acoustics seamlessly flows into the ebb and flow of recurrent supporting voices, making repetitive arcs simply enchanting. While similar acts like Fleet Foxes focus on grand-scale narratives, Peasant feels stripped down and personal.
But as captivating as Shady, Retreat proves, the album suffers from mild pacing issues. As with any album aspiring to succeed on the strength of a sound rather than on individual songs, the challenge becomes keeping up momentum from start to finish. That being said, by the final few tracks I caught myself zoning out on a few occasions – never a good thing. Although I can’t say I ever truly lost interest, Shady, Retreat smartly runs just shy of an hour, tactfully concluding before the listener can cry foul.
Overall, with Shady, Retreat Peasant provides a strong album. Creating an immersive soundscape with very little differentiation has its challenges, and with the exception of a few dragging moments, Shady, Retreat overcomes those obstacles. Fans of soothing mellow indie-folk should find a lot to like here.