The Significance of Peaches

Chris Bathgate

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The Significance of Peaches Review

by Marcy Donelson

Since launching his recording career in the early 2000s, around the time he relocated to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan, Illinois-born singer/songwriter Chris Bathgate's perceptive, often heartrending songs have been implicitly associated with the Midwest. Following the 2016 release of his album Dizzy Seas, Bathgate lived for some time in California, where he rekindled a relationship and started a family. Arriving in 2022, The Significance of Peaches is heavily inspired by time spent in Michigan National Forests and on orchards as well as on Northern California farm co-ops between records. A deeply reflective album that blends themes of nature, relationships, and healing, and that feels the weight of a pandemic and sociopolitical strife without explicitly addressing them, The Significance of Peaches also represents a shift in sound for Bathgate, who eschews guitars and -- with a couple of exceptions -- lively folk inspirations here. Instead, he relies on parlor organ and touches of piano, strings, and percussion for an often drone-like set of meditations. With Bathgate maintaining a consistent approach, it was recorded with a half-dozen different producers and engineers, including JR JR's Daniel Zott and the Onlys' Jamie Hill. Opener "Sweet Fern" starts with only the hum of the organ before Bathgate sets a scene with, "In the morning, no trouble/In the forest, light stuttering/The sweet fern uncovered." Only then do light drums and a single keyboard note enter. Instruments such as accordion and piano eventually add to both the organ's drone and the song's minimal harmonic movement as the singer continues to explore his surroundings, "where the words hang, unuttered." Most of the songs here follow the opener's efficient, poignant example, though exceptions include the more robust, tuneful "Bruises," which includes a rousing backing chorus; the melancholy "Eliza" and more exuberant "Stone," both of which employ fiddle and echoing drums as part of band arrangements; and the glitchy "Breeze," which begins with a familiar sustained low note before adding lead and electronically manipulated shadow vocals. Final track "Mistakes" again begins with sustained organ, this time doubled by bass, as Bathgate's hymn-like melody calls for self-forgiveness and healing: "Under the soft July rain...Nothing seems as sad or strange." Part poignant indie folk and part tone poem, The Significance of Peaches is an affecting work more memorable for its ambiance than for individual songs.

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