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First Play: Peach Kelli Pop, Gentle Leader

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Melody Lau

Last month, Allie Hanlon put out her sixth release as Peach Kelli Pop, the six-song EP Which Witch. Clocking in at under seven minutes, Which Witch was a quick burst of grungy riffs marked by melodies that stuck with listeners long after the minute-long tracks had whipped by.

These songs were a solo effort put together by Hanlon during a trip to her hometown of Ottawa, a process that had been the norm for the now L.A.-based artist. But, a month after Which Witch’s release, Hanlon is back with another record, this time a full-length release called Gentle Leader that still packs in the hooks but finds Hanlon trying a different approach to songwriting.

Gentle Leader is a collaborative outing for Hanlon, one that sees her splitting production duties with engineer and guitarist Roland Cosio. It also solidifies Peach Kelli Pop as more of a band, rounding out the group with contributions from Sophie Negrini on guitar, the Mean Jeans’ Andrew Bassett on drums and bassist Gina Negrini playing, as well as penning "Quiet," one of the album’s tracks.

While some songs on Gentle Leader cross the two-minute mark — which none of Which Witch’s tracks were able to reach — there’s still a compact, firecracker quality to everything here. Most songs dash out of the gates, ready to dazzle with quips about black cats, polyester pants and Mario characters while unabashedly overwhelming our senses with a tidal wave of guitars like a Technicolor fever dream.

It’s not far off from the album’s fantastical cover art, illustrated by Brooklyn artist Miza Coplin, filled with a surreal collage of images from rainbows and butterflies to a sword and dagger, and even a curiously strange person wearing a bunny costume. It’s easy to assume that, when Hanlon cheerfully exclaims, “It’s my best life! Hello Kitty knife!” on the album’s opening track, this is what her ideal life looks like: full of colour and personality, but it's not without its bite and edge.

“In my dreams I’m no longer crying/ because in my dreams, I know that you’re mine,” Hanlon sings on one of the album’s more downtempo moments, the acoustic “Parasomnia.” In a sense, each song is a separate dreamscape for Hanlon and co., a place constructed for pure punk-driven pop pleasure. For fans of bands like Violent Femmes, Colleen Green or Vivian Girls, these songs will be your dream, too.

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