The early frontrunner for Maine Album of the Summer was released last fall by an artist who’s been living in France for some years. But Britta Pejic’s Latitude Bera is a world-class work of psychedelic music that fans and neighbors (and strangers) in this state must not miss.
Pejic tips her hat to her old turf on the opener, “Sebago Lumbago,” an instantly likeable and perfectly built pop song custom-made for a day at the lake — though the lyrics, Pejic notes on her Bandcamp page, concern “scary dreams” about Sebago; specifically, a head at the bottom with “Abe Lincoln’s face.” Cool. Crack another cold one, ’cause this song is summer in a can.
Only one track from Pejic’s prior release, 2010’s Backyards That Weren’t There Before, managed to linger in my head all these years — “The Sky and The Woman,” also an opener — so I approached the rest of the songs upon first listen with some doubt, like, OK, how many gems you got this time?
The answer: this 10-track album has about 10 musical gems, maybe 11 if you count the closer, “Everytime/Forced perspective,” a combination of two very different songs: the first a sledge-wielding rocker “about photography methods over the years,” she wrote; the second a feather-light, strummy number in which “a person is being interviewed but realizes the interviewer wants the answers to fit their own story.”
Did I mention how profoundly odd Pejic is? That is, in some measure, her charm, but equally important are her powerful and distinctive voice, her musical chops on lots of instruments, and her brilliance as an arranger and producer, all of which are on full display here.
Listen to “There’s a letter,” in which Pejic builds a five-part ladder to the stratosphere for the chorus using vocal overdubs. That’s another song that’ll be in my head in 2031. Assisted here, and on a few other tracks, only by a keyboardist credited as Lole, Pejic spins a whirling musical dreamworld out of sounds large and small.
“Riffindots” — “about scary drivers and the 30 roundabouts near my home!” — rides a sick groove straight into another great vocal overdub, Pejic shouting, “Hey! I’m a human being too!” behind repeated refrains as this prick rolls by “at the speed of goddamn light.” There are lots of memorable lyrics like that. On “There’s a letter,” her advice is to “just stitch it on your sleeve / ’cause no one will notice, it’s not on your chest.”
The most ambitious song on Latitude, “Who are you (Staring up at me from my drain?),” detours into an entire backstory about the spy in the pipes and how a reversal of fortune “shriveled [him] down to the size of a bead of brow sweat.” How can you not love songs that reference stuff like “brow sweat”? How can you not love an album that, musically and lyrically, literally does have everything and the kitchen sink?
You can’t, so don’t try. Just listen and enjoy.