Earlier this year, I wrote about Photo Ops, the folk-tinged, dream pop recording project of Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter Terry Price. And as you may recall, Price began Photo Ops as a way to find meaning within an onslaught of of traumatic and life altering events — a sudden and serious medical condition, his father’s death and the breakup of his longtime band Oblio. All of those things wound up inspired 2013’s Photo Ops debut, How to Say Goodbye.
Building upon a growing profile, 2016’s Patrick Damphier-produced sophomore album Vacation was released to critical praise with several songs off the album making appearances in film and TV, including the trailer for the motion picture People, Places, Things, several episodes of ABC’s Blood & Oil and CW’s Valor — and as a result, the album and its material amassed several million streams on Spotify. Adding to a big year, Price eventually signed a publishing deal with Secretly Canadian.
Like countless sensitive and thoughtful souls, Price was shaken and dazed by the 2016 election. He quit touring for Vacation, went dark on social, left Nashville, where he had lived for 15 years and relocated to Los Angeles. “I needed to shed my skin,” Price recalls in press notes. “I needed to look outside myself for inspiration,” Price explains. “It’s a matter of survival to know that there is beauty in the world. So that’s my mission now: to show that there still is beauty in the world. I honestly don’t know how else to write right now.”
Slated for release later this year, Price’s third Photo Ops effort, Pure at Heart was partially inspired by his listening and careful study of Bob Dylan‘s Sirius XM show, Bob Dylans’s Theme Time Radio Hour while driving through the Southwest. “They were mostly old songs. What struck me was the spirit that was behind them. They’re just people in a room with a microphone, so they would have to self-correct and really conjure a spirit in the moment. Something about that felt so vital to me. It sounds like a time and place,” Price says. And as a result, the forthcoming album, which continues Price’s ongoing collaboration with Patrick Damphier is based around a production that emphasizes a sense of immediacy that’s a sort of Jack Kerouac-like first thought, best thought fashion. Along with that, the arrangements throughout the album’s material are also based around immediacy and ease with Price using an intentionally limited set of instruments: one acoustic guitar, one electric guitar, a vintage, 60s Ludwig drum kit, a stand-up piano, a Hofner bass and a small Casiotone keyboard. And although for this album Price is working remotely with the Nashville-based Damphier, the album’s songs were recorded as soon as they were written.
Reportedly, one of the biggest and most noticeable changes throughout the album is in Price’s voice, as the album features Prince singing with a relaxed, easy-going, upper register. “It’s partly an accident of location,” Price explains. “In Nashville, I had a garage. I could go out and make as much noice as I wanted. In L.A., you have to be more thoughtful about your neighbors.” Unsurprisingly, the need to sing quietly opened up the opportunity to experiment with space and restraint.
Now, as you may recall, the buoyant, at Full Moon Fever-era Tom Petty-like “July” featured an infectious hook while its narrator sighs with a mix of clinically and highly ironic detachment and compassion over the end of a major relationship centered with the understanding that all things must end at some point. “Palm Trees,” Pure at Heart‘s latest single is a breezy and twangy, 70s AM rock-inspired track — and while bittersweet and wistful, the track finds its narrator following a wandering train of thought on a beach without judgement of interpretation, as though he were observing and meditating on the fleeting and pointless nature of everything around him. (You can small the salt in air, see the palm tress waving back and forth in the breeze . . .) “One nice thing about L.A. is that when you go to the beach, you are forced to reckon with profound wealth on display,” Price explained to Buzzlands.la. “This song is about trying to disentangle natural beauty from conspicuous consumption. And missing your friends.”