Album Reviews

Liz Lawrence – Peanuts

(Chrysalis) UK release date: 7 June 2024

With its themes of societal change and flux, a suitable soundtrack to Britain in 2024 is here delivered with the confident strut of a veteran performer

Liz Lawrence - Peanuts Now onto her fourth album, Stratford-upon-Avon’s Liz Lawrence has quietly established herself as something of a force to be reckoned with over the past decade. Whether it be half of the electro-pop duo Cash + David, or guesting with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club or Ani DiFranco, her songs are now delivered with the confident strut of a veteran performer.

Those songs have evolved a lot since her debut. Where 2011’s debut Bedroom Hero was all winsome acoustic folk, Peanuts is a mighty behemoth of a funk-pop record. Like all the best artists, it feels as if she’s dipped into a whole load of genres and come up with one of her own – there’s some strident funk rhythms here, a few Talking Heads new-wave style licks there, and now and again, a big spacey ballad. It’s Lawrence’s most confident album to date.

Peanuts is also an album full of surprises. The opening Big Machine is a stirring introduction, an enormous, driving anthem with a big chorus of “Hey hey, I swear there’s something happening”. It takes a couple of listens to realise that there’s a sense of frustration and fear powering the song: “I can barely breathe, I can barely stand,” runs one line, while the outro of “Daddy England is doing my head in” feels like it could be written for a country in a state of flux. It’s a gloriously cathartic start to the record.

That’s Life is another early highlight, an elastic bass and stabbing guitar chords combining to produce a song that gently sways like Summer Camp in their prime, while Strut more than lives up to its name, a woozy anthem to “the importance of leaving your house and interacting with other people” – it could almost be a post-pandemic call to arms. The odd little spacey synths underpinning the song give it even more depth.

There’s a running theme on Peanuts of going back to nature – whether it be the ferociously energetic Nitrogen’s reference to growing geraniums in an abandoned allotment plot, or Names Of Plants And Animals’ lyrics about retreating to the countryside in a wave of anxiety (“I feel a churn in my stomach, like it’s set to spin cycle, while I’m crossing my fingers for a ’90s revival” has to be one of the best lyrical couplets of the year).

On Loss And Overcoming Despair may sound like a tear-stained lament, but in Lawrence’s hands it’s turned into something of a stirring anthem, full of handclaps, with producer Ali Chant building the song from its minimal beginnings into something which sounds quite extraordinary – and then, that’s followed by the calm close of Top Level Joy, which brings the album to a somewhat wistful close.

Peanuts feels like an album which will take Liz Lawrence up to another level – after a couple of listens, you won’t be able to stop humming the hooks of songs like No Worries If Not or Big Machine. And, with its themes of societal change and flux, it also feels like a suitable soundtrack to Britain in 2024. It’s Liz Lawrence’s best album yet, and hints at even greater things to come.

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Liz Lawrence – Peanuts