When Arthur Beatrice get it right, they nail it. “Do you really enjoy this? Does it not make you wince sometimes?” asks Ella Girardot on the opener to Keeping The Peace. As far as parental letters of confession go, it’s hard to find something that’s so aware (“now I’ve become so self-involved”) and yet so upfront emotional than Real Life, which ends up being a tight capsule of what this band capture best.
Girardot’s voice is what carries the more rounded emotions they project on this new album, which jumps several shades ahead of the existential ennui from their debut. “How deep is the wound I’m healing?” Girardot sings on Healing to a super-sparse backing of strings. There seems to be a great deal more personal investment in the songs this time, more warmth in the production and more intimacy in both sound and words (“there’s no number I can call to reassure myself,” relates All I Ask). If their debut encompassed millennial angst, this one sees through the maelstrom of adolescent pain.
To write that is quite something in itself, so for Arthur Beatrice to express it so profoundly really is a mark of how they’re progressing. Keeping The Peace takes in all meanings of the phrase in two-party strife but also that ongoing war within, seeking balance in a world that’s constantly trying to throw it off. Funnily enough, Girardot sings it best on Who Returned when she tells us “all I have is this emotion”. That’s certainly true, and it’s a privilege to share all of it with Arthur Beatrice.