Pearla : Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming

Pearla Oh Glistening Onion review

Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming, the debut album by Brooklyn singer/songwriter Pearla, sounds less like a scrappy introduction and more like the tour de force of an artist with the chops to make a grand statement. Credit in part can be attributed to a three-plus-year gestation since Nicole Rodriguez’s first EP Quilting & Other Activities back in 2019. But while its wordy title might imply something overly arty and dense, Oh Glistening Onion is anything but. Pearla has a way of grounding even her wildest flights of fancy in relatable concerns and lived-in moments. She also adds doses of humor to keep things light, as on the loping opener “Strong,” where having her credit card stolen causes her to muse on all kinds of absurdities against a bright backdrop of mariachi horns. Much of the album is spent getting lost in the possibilities of the metaphysical and the surreal, only to struggle to reconcile all that with reality’s harsher truths.

Rodriguez and her co-producer and collaborator Tyler Postiglione do an excellent job finding interesting new settings for each of these contemplative songs to make the album a fresh listen from start to finish. There’s inherent variety in the writing, with “Balm” sauntering with a ’50s doo-wop vibe, “The Place with No Weather” landing in hazy, dream-pop territory, and “Unglow The” settling in a moody, muddy groove before a psychedelic fadeout. While there isn’t anything here too up-tempo, surprises emerge even amid languid paces. On “Effort,” the song’s patterns are hard to pin down until Pearla erupts with a towering chorus.

As a vocalist, Rodriquez naturally evokes what her songs articulate, toggling between open-hearted wonder and downcast disappointment. And as a lyricist, she effortlessly makes connections among the world’s random phenomena, the haphazard imagery of her dreams, and the emotional upheaval of her daily life. For all the wild reporting on clams and onions, she elucidates the contents of her heart when she sings, “It’s a new kind of lonesome” in “About Hunger, About Love.” And for all the Utopian visions, she can’t help but see the world at times with cold, clear eyes; “The truth is I don’t like the truth,” she laments on “Balm.”

The album starts strong and keeps getting stronger. “Flicker” is a folky, singalong ramble complete with age-old train imagery. But Rodriguez undercuts the clichés when she concludes, with cosmic clarity, that what matters most aren’t the points of departure or arrival or even the journey itself, but rather “the promise of getting on one.” In “The Mysterious Bubble of the Turkey Swamp,” she ponders nothing less than the ebb and flow of life and finds freedom in her lack of control over it all: “It’s just a back and forth of circumstance colliding, repeating, and dying.Oh Glistening Onion, The Nighttime Is Coming isn’t to be damned with faint praise for being “great for a debut.” Pearla may write and perform from the questioning perspective of youth, but she displays poise and skill that even established veterans would envy.

Label: Spacebomb

Year: 2023

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