Described by lead singer and guitarist Miki Berenyi as their “shoegaze” album, and with a title taken from a line in a Dylan Thomas poem, Piroshka‘s follow-up to acclaimed debut Brickbat certainly bears some of the characteristics that her previous band Lush had.
So too, with her fellow musicians KJ McKillop from Moose, Modern English’s Mick Conroy and ex-Elastica drummer Justin Welch. It’s easy to see how such respective influences colour Piroshka‘s shimmering dream pop sound.
Indeed, the lyrical focus on the love of family and getting through difficult times is mired in raw introspection, but that’s not to say that it’s an easy album to pin down, sonically speaking. Dream pop or its predecessor shoegazing (shoegaze for short) is only one facet on offer here.
For example, the opening track Hastings comes across like a companion piece to Pulp’s lovely Cafe Italia, with its evocation of British seaside towns and the loneliness of loss, framed through its ambient wash of keys and elegiac flugelhorn solo from guest musician Terry Edwards.
Brian Eno, Virginia Astley and the late Harold Budd are as much musical touchstones as Cocteau Twins or My Bloody Valentine. The use of throbbing soundscapes can be found in Familiar, a pared-down song dealing in Berenyi’s menopausal depression.
Melancholy is all over the record. Even the most poppy track Scratching At The Lid with its chiming light touch, deals with mortality and legacy. Then there’s the gorgeous, rippling tribute to Vaughan Oliver, 4AD’s brilliant art designer, who unexpectedly passed away in 2019.
There’s even a little psychedelia in the hazy Wanderlust, with a melodic nod to The Doors’ Light My Fire.
But the most interesting instrumentation can be found on standout track The Knife Thrower’s Daughter, a woozy lullaby with imagery akin to the twisted adult fairytales of Angela Carter. The use of layered mellotron and cello bring a real depth to Berenyi’s affecting meditation on motherhood.
Time may have mellowed Piroshka in comparison to their more frenetic debut, but they’re not afraid to take risks, in terms of direction or subject matter. It’s a hugely touching album. No embarrassing parents here, or middle aged shout-outs.