Album reviews: Maisie Peters – You Signed Up for This, and Chvrches – Screen Violence

·3-min read
Peters takes after Taylor Swift – who has praised the young singer’s voice as ‘heavenly’ – in her ability to embed a chorus into your brain (Atlantic Records)
Peters takes after Taylor Swift – who has praised the young singer’s voice as ‘heavenly’ – in her ability to embed a chorus into your brain (Atlantic Records)

Maisie PetersYou Signed Up For This

★★★★☆

“I am 20 and probably upset right now,” sings Maisie Peters, cracking open the first track of her debut album. It’s the sort of simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and sincere self-assessment that’s become standard for Gen-Z artists such as her. It’s also an uncharacteristically restrained line on an album that revels in emotional extremes.

The Sussex-raised singer-songwriter already has a string of recognisable tracks, and a following that has grown exponentially larger and more devout since her 2018 EP Dressed Too Nice for a Jacket. But You Signed Up For This is Peters’ first official record, as well as the first album to be released by Ed Sheeran’s label Gingerbread Man.

On it, Peters displays a singular vision: pop. She mostly lets go of the snappy guitar acoustics that shaped her past sound and in doing so drops the first half of her “folk-pop” descriptor. Instead, synth-filled melodies and springy beats demand bedroom dancing and hairbrush singing. There is nothing childish about this album, though; in fact, the singer is assured in her sound, the music grounded in its self-conscious melodrama.

Peters remains an engaging storyteller, weaving narratives in the same vein as her teen obsession, Taylor Swift. She is apt at telling tales of love gained, love lost, and love furiously torched in a dumpster fire. On the album’s second track, “I’m Trying (Not Friends)”, she sets the scene (“London 2020, boy and girl broke up / It’s two a penny”) before diving into the age-old feelings of trying to hide your unreasonable hatred of an ex’s new partner. Wicked one-liners wink at you across the album’s 14 tracks.

Peters also takes after Swift – who has praised the young singer’s voice as “heavenly” – in her ability to embed a chorus into your brain. See “Psycho”, “Villain”, and “John Hughes Movie” for further proof of that.

You Signed Up For This is an effortless pop debut. As an already established singer, Peters had little to prove, but after a shimmering first album, she has laid any residual doubt to rest. AN

ChvrchesScreen Violence

★★★★☆

The Scottish trio mark their 10th anniversary with Screen Violence: a gothic-tinged album exploring our difficult relationship with the screen – from video nasties to social media savagery on our phones. David Cronenberg’s 1983 sci-fi Videodrome is a thematic touchstone; as is Disintegration-era Cure. The Cure’s Robert Smith even makes an appearance on standout “How Not to Drown”, his voice a moody, quavering contrast to frontwoman Laura Mayberry’s soaring, sugary-pop vocals.

Chvrches (Sebastian Mlynarski and Kevin J Thomson)
Chvrches (Sebastian Mlynarski and Kevin J Thomson)

Elsewhere, songs explore the isolation and loneliness that comes from living lives through screens – especially on the dark “He Said She Said” and “Good Girls”, where shimmering sci-fi synths build into lush electronic soundscapes. Both tracks see Mayberry scrutinise the male gaze via a world of judgmental screens, while “Final Girl” subverts the female horror-film victim trope into a proggy anthem of survival.

“Are the screens evil, or are we?” Chvrches wondered in a recent interview. It’s a question at the heart of Screen Violence and one the band try to answer via a heady gothic disco. It’s their best album to date. EA

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