The opening track on Alice Peacock’s Minnesota, “Love Goes with You,” is a harbinger of the subtle and simple beauty of the entire album. The song opens with Peacock’s and Derri Daugherty’s crystalline a cappella plea — “What does it mean when you say goodbye?” — before a snare shot opens into a shuffling, pop-inflected ballad laid down by shimmering vocals that create a cascading wall of sound. The song explores loving, leaving, and the fleeting nature of time and relationships.
Peacock’s smooth vocals inhabit these tunes, and she delivers a stunning array of styles and vocal phrasings. John Painter supplies horns on the sultry jazz vamp “Paranoid,” while Phil Madeira lays down the foundation on his Wurlitzer and provides some toodling airs on his melodica. The haunting “Free and Wild” floats along ethereally like a lullaby; it’s comforting, and the gentle tune mimics the nurturing evoked by the lyrics. The singer sings her child to sleep in the song’s opening lines: “Go to sleep my baby child / Let your dreams run free and wild.” The mother embraces the beauty of her child’s freedom to be itself, and she looks back to the birth of the child and ahead to the child’s future while being grateful for her child’s presence: “And how can I imagine my life / Before you came and brought your light.” Will Kimbrough lays down some crunchy, rocking riffs in “My Own Backyard,” a propulsive rocker that counsels that the grass is not always greener on the other side. The album closes with a gorgeous, Latin-inflected anthem to Peacock’s home state, “Minnesota,” and a soulful gospel-inflected song, “God Be with Me,” that Madeira kicks off with a Sunday morning piano run and that Painter fills in with his horns.
Minnesota, Peacock’s first studio album since 2009’s Love Remains, is stunningly beautiful, and that beauty arises from the simple structure of most of these songs; the uncluttered, spacious, and transcendent vocals; and Peacock’s ability to inhabit phrasing in these songs like a jazz singer. Minnesota is an entrancing album.