The Pernice Brothers conclude their debut, Overcome by Happiness, with a fragile mood piece. Singer Joe Pernice, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, achieves a lonely, dead-of-night atmosphere in the spirit of soul-searching songwriters such as Nick Drake for the similarly delicate ballad "Ferris Wheel."
After unceremoniously clearing his throat, Pernice sets the song's snail pace at a crawl with high, chiming guitar chords, ever so delicately struck. His untreated vocal opts for the ultra-intimate close recording, the microphone picking up every nuance of Pernice's soft, breathy croon. The lyrics certainly fall in the downer category, but seem to contain a hallucinogenic flavor: "Bring in the new one/Break off the seal/I'm dizzy and little/Like a Ferris wheel/Tea in the Sahara/I cut up my hand/Can't see for the brightness." The chorus chords reach for a higher progression as the lyrics continue to spiral downward, the ache in Pernice's voice cracking as he implores, "How the moonlight is a bitter gold/Oh, I don't want to die/But you never know, 'till you try/Ferris Wheel." A sparse, one-finger piano solo gently fills the vocal void between the song's two choruses in the fashion of Nick Drake's fabled "Pink Moon."
With "Ferris Wheel," Pernice could be criticized for overtly going for too precious a moment, but his voice manages to communicate just the right amount of heartfelt sincerity, which allows him to successfully carry it off.