Written by Archie Sagers
I first listened to Petite League’s new album, Thrill Seekers, on my short train trip home one rainy Friday afternoon. The chorus-laden bassline, sharp guitar pulses, and splashing drums of “Bloody Knuckles” flew into my headphones before I paused the track for a train announcement, telling me I was to be held here on the aqueduct above the bottom end of the city for 35 minutes. Rain pounding onto the windows obscured the view of my house, located just 10 metres below me. I settled in and resumed the sweet indie rock sounds of Petite League. In the 13 songs that span the 33 minutes of Thrill Seekers, they showcase their prowess, dyslexic poetry, and meticulously crafted songwriting that has steadily morphed and matured with each release.
To say I’m a fan of the band’s previous output is putting it mildly. No Hitter and Slugger were albums that shaped my youth. After seeing a short documentary about the band’s DIY basement gigs at age 16, I became obsessed with their back catalogue. “Little Fourth of July” and “Zookeeper” permanently occupy a space in my psyche, making appearances randomly through my songwriting. “Raspberry Seeds” still affects me profoundly five years after I first heard it. As the comforting soft sounds of Petite League’s latest effort enter my ears, I feel a smile creep across my face as they have more than lived up to my expectations.
On Thrill Seekers, Petite League borrows elements of genres like garage rock and surf rock, combining indie guitar hooks with tongue-in-cheek New York-based songwriting. Working again with Jon Searles, who mixed and mastered their previous release Joyrider, the band has sharpened their lo-fi sound to a knife edge. Lorenzo Gillis Cook’s distorted and double-tracked vocals slide simultaneously into both speakers, underpinned by warm bass and pollinated by jangling guitars and soft drums. Their nostalgia-laden sound, consistently fuzzy throughout the album, allows Petite League to place the focus on the carefully fabricated tracks averaging around two and a half minutes long.
“Mets” showcases the merits of this limited production style. Beginning with chugging chorus-laden guitar and soft watery synth, Petite League creates a nostalgic and mellow soundscape, reminding the listener of New York indie bands like DIIV and Beach Fossils. In the second verse, Cook refers to the band’s previous work, singing “digging deeper than a shin bruise baby,” calling back to their 2017 track “Shin Bruise” and drawing focus toward their evolved songwriting. Petite League doesn’t waste a second of the two-minute track length; the instrumentation cuts out abruptly before the vocals of “Nite Stairs” burst into life.
Cook’s unique metaphors and style of lyrics create a vivid picture of the memories they describe. Petite League has carefully crafted nostalgia since their debut back in 2015, and on Thrill Seekers, they continue to use personal and endearing imagery to create a unique lyrical connection to the audience. “Faded freckle memories” in “Vacation Torture” conveys focused landscapes and images of the summer holidays passed. These lyrics, accompanied by screaming guitar and erratic drums, merge into the track before the band strips the instrumentation back, allowing the bassist to slide up and down the fretboard creating a soft, laid-back chorus.
“Floating Blue,” a love song dedicated to the band’s city, also showcases Cook’s lyrical expertise. Harmonising jangling guitars intersperse with his musings on New York life: “I thought of you while I was doing laundry / A perfect time to overthink.” At the halfway point, the kitschy strummed guitar slightly slows the tempo before Cook’s smiling voice swings the track into its second verse. He earnestly sings of his childhood, summarising his difficulties by thinking of the pigeons in the city that always find their way home. Album highlight “New York 2002” showcases this confessional songwriting perfectly. Telling the story of youthful drinking and parties across the big apple, Cook sings in his signature distorted vocals, “I was looking for a vice when I met you.”
The penultimate track, “Patience,” kicks off with fast-strummed guitar chords reminiscent of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” before plunging into a heartfelt ballad. The second verse begins with vocals from Sorry Mom, a queer femme indie band also from New York. Warm vocal harmonies punctuate the track, allowing for a softer and more contemplative display of emotion than the previous songs in the album.
The songs on Thrill Seekers, impressing me on that first listen in the stationary train, slowly grew into warm and comforting ballads, constantly filling my ears with meticulously crafted indie rock. Like a newfound friend, Cook’s voice helped soundtrack my week, adding a romantic twinge to even the dullest days. It continues Petite League’s streak of prodigious releases and is the perfect soundtrack to remember summer’s past during these impending cold winter months.
Score: 8 Pollenate Me!
Archie Sagers is a musician and photographer living in Brighton (U.K.). He has also run the record label Crafting Room Recordings since 2019.