Peaks and Valleys by Kendall Patrick advertises itself as an honest record. If you are expecting something raw and abrasive then you will be disappointed. This doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s really, REALLY good! It’s just that it masks its pain and autobiographical nature behind catchy melodies and instantaneous likability. Listening to it is much like making friends with a truly kindhearted person, only to discover that they are as damaged as you are. In other words, this is pop music with a throbbing, beating heart.
Patrick has a voice that is made for radio, but there is something so down to earth about her delivery. You never sense that she is a diva or untouchable. Her approachability pulls you in, even if this kind of music isn’t your thing. I have no idea why, but she kind of reminds me of Shania Twain. Maybe it’s because she is also Canadian, but I think it’s more that she can expertly sell even the cheesier aspects of pop music. Sure “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” is a bit ridiculous, but if that song doesn’t make you even a little bit happy then you are a lying bastard!
Make no mistake, these ARE simple songs, but who says that is a bad thing? What separates a songwriter of Kendall Patrick’s caliber from someone as putrid and vomit inducing as Justin Bieber is her personal and emotionally complex lyrics. The song “Peaks and Valleys” addresses the anxiety and doubts that anyone in a long-term relationship can relate to. Songwriters often make the mistake of treating love as very black and white. Patrick knows that the best love songs are ones that play with its finer intricacies.
“Breaking Ground” sees Patrick coming to terms with her depression, anxiety, and musical aspirations. As an adult who has also dealt with similar demons, I can definitely appreciate an artist like her bringing more awareness towards mental illness. It’s empowering to know that just because someone can write bright and sunny refrains, doesn’t mean they haven’t been through hell and back. All this is to say that Patrick doesn’t settle on your typical, overdone tropes like girl-loves-boy ballads or club bangers that celebrate living a shallow existence.
For me the classic of the album is “Cannonball.” You could certainly accuse it of being a bit cutesy, but goddamn that melody is awesome! It’s the kind of melody that makes you feel like you’ve known it your whole life. It’s wholesome without being cloying, and precious without ever being obnoxious. It celebrates the little things that we love about a person. In this case, the way he or she burns their toast and lets their Italian slip.
“Grocery Store Parking Lot” isn’t as successful. It’s not that it’s awful, it’s just unnecessary especially considering how strong Patrick’s singing is. In general, though, spoken word tracks on a six track EP are never a good idea.But that two-minute experiment should not stop your overall enjoyment of this record. In all honesty, not much will.
I can be skeptical towards songwriters with pop inclinations, which almost led me to write this off. I was wrong. So VERY wrong! This is the way they used to make pop music. Accessible, but also bubbling with vulnerability, which is as it should be.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Kate Erickson