Songwriter Joe Jackson, more commonly known by her stage name Sloan Peterson, has been making a quick rise in her local Sydney scene backed by the strength of her well received EPs and singles. She shoves numerous influences into her music, from her love of David Bowie and Gwen Stefani to a clear taste for brawny garage rock. Most prominently in her sound, and most distinctive, however, is a clear affinity for the innocence and retro sheen of 50s guitar pop.
Midnight Love Vol. 2, a sequel to her 2017 EP by the same name, opens up with the alt-pop breakup tune “Don’t Get Me Started”. The track is launched and bolstered by a very Kim Deal-sounding bassline. And also much like the Pixies and that era of alternative rock, Peterson contrasts a sunny verse with a loud and gusty garage rock chorus. Regrettably, the chord progression in the chorus will sound all too familiar to fans of Garbage’s hit song “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)”. Lyrically, she is deliciously toothy and sardonic, a tone she weaves in and out of throughout the album. Speaking to us in a 2018 interview, she revealed she’s a big admirer of Wes Anderson’s films; “Wes Anderson’s definitely a massive influence on me visually. I love everything he does”. The popular director’s love of bright colour and warmth can be vibrantly felt through the tone of this opening song.
“Here” was her first single released this year and it is the best track on the album. It’s a high energy, synth-heavy psychedelic pop tune. Her vocals, along with the instruments, are densely washed in reverb and echo. But unlike many of her contemporaries, this is not a ploy to hide lack of quality songwriting. Peterson throws in a triumphant, dreamy guitar solo for good measure. Listen for her vocal swells at the back half of this track. It’s an ethereal moment, and she sounds as lost in it as the listener may become.
Peterson is a big fan of The Strokes, and it really comes through on the guitar and drum shuffle that starts off “Midnight Love”. Its effortlessly cool swing wouldn’t feel too out of place on Is This It (2001). And Peterson’s buoyant yelps recall another NYC indie icon, Karen O. It’s a fun, windows-down anthem that speaks to the carefree emotion of youthful love.
On acoustic ballad “Missing Me”, Peterson’s lush vocals really shine through, not finding themself lost in the track’s simplicity. Even with being considerably slower than the other tunes, it does not kill the momentum. Nor is it a flavourless piece of filler. Her playful, cracking voice is full of personality on this endearing send off to an ex.
Peterson’s strength as a songwriter lies in her ability to capture retro musical elements and give them a fresh modern reinterpretation. Take for example the duck walking riffs on “New Direction”. It has Buddy Holly written all over it in construction, but the reverb and her catchy, dramatic vocals give it a true dream pop feel.
Opening up with piano and pulled together by sunbathed slacker riffs, “Our Love” recalls the best moments from Real Estate and Mac DeMarco. Peterson croons, layering her vocals with sultry harmonies. “Our love has gone, what are we gonna do now?” asks her partner as she ponders a failing relationship, keeping the record thematically consistent. It transitions well into the much noisier “Very Like You”. A slinky, echo-heavy chorus entices with ethereal arpeggios, climaxing with skyward tremolos on the instrumental bridge. It’s the type of haunting beauty you would expect David Lynch to stage in Twin Peaks’ Bang Bang Bar.
“105”, dating back to her 2017 Midnight Love EP, could have been written by The Shangri-Las but with a modern synth touch. The title is meant to suggest some type of road as the guitars and drums have a really pulsating, motion-inducing effect. This is a clever play on the lyrics, as the song is about a fling who lacks commitment and who is just along for a short joy ride.
Sloan Peterson is pretty obvious about her influences, but it is not for a lack of originality. She finds creative ways to seamlessly blend her love of vintage pop and modern jagged indie rock. While this is her main calling card, there are elements that would excite fans of the dreamier side of contemporary indie. Think Jay Som, Alvvays, and Japanese Breakfast. While the old pop focused on the innocence of teenage love, which is not absent here, Peterson also looks at the intricate complexities of modern romance, in all of its stages, which is an element brought on by her mixture of jaded, indie rockers.
Midnight Love Vol. 2 is released Friday 19th April via Mirror Records