A three-song suite stitches itself through the centre of Puck’s debut album, Best Friend. Beginning with Woman, the patchwork pens a dissertation – verbally and musically – on the history of forceful patriarchy, pieced by Joni Mitchell-style high-to-low tunefulness on the aforementioned single. The suite shifts shape, picturing the modernist’s ability to be anything they wish; the symphony strings of You morph into ambient pop, then into a mechanical tape jam outro; Richer walks the same path-of-many-paths, freaking out with old school jazz fusion and prog ambitions.
The suite is sandwiched by multiple other examples of Puck’s ability to equip varied weaponry, all to deal with themes of abusive relationships and subsequent recovery. As the topicalities of the everyday art pop debut are expected, Puck delves into electroacoustic wobbleboard tribalism on Math, one of many unforeseen detours, an ingenuity that somehow melds with standardised ballads like Meeting Place, the work of a jack of all trades and master of many.
Puck’s most powerful weapon – an asset that the entirety of Best Friend could’ve been built on with no complaints – is their Frances Quinlan-esque, guttural gravel. A throatiness equal parts wild and controlled blasts away on Hope, attaching itself to confident, throwback, snare-heavy glam struts and Bernard Edwards-style basslines. Whilst mild-mannered, it captures the raw emotion of discovering the abusiveness of a long-term friend on the title track.
Their voice stands atop the barest keyboards on When the Quiet I Had Feared Finally Came, bold and beaming, uncannily finding the Joni Mitchell, vocals-on-keys relationship often strived for on Best Friend. Trapped is likeminded, fielding a density formed from aggressive sparsity, Plastic Ono Band-esque with additional electronics and atmospheres, all to prop heavy growls as Puck sings of toxicity and vicious cycles in relationships.
It’s no surprise that Puck is so multi-faceted in their approach. Already a jazz kid, they learned on the job whilst serving as a live keyboardist for SZA, Maggie Rogers, and others. Their debut album is the result of life lessons and hardship, professionally and personally, and feels no difficulty in shocking its audience via several twists and turns.