The breathless peak on PS I Love You’s third LP is “Afraid of the Light,” a psych-prog oddity that kicks off with a blaring, harmonized choir and concludes with a lavish display of guitar fireworks. “I feel so relieved,” sings frontman-axeman Paul Saulnier, “Now I don’t worry about a thing / Not any little thing / when I feel that breeze through my fingers.”
The Canadian duo’s last album, 2012’s Death Dreams, was a kaleidoscopic black hole of mortality and misery—its artful title track was inspired by a “death march band” from one of Saulnier’s nightmares. But as “Light” suggests, For Those Who Stay is a wide-eyed step out of the darkness—a more varied and lively set that adds some bold new colors to their fuzz-rock canvas.
“In My Mind at Least” opens the album with a jolting rush of psychedelia, Saulnier layering oceans of guitar effects over Benjamin Nelson’s pointed percussion; “Advice” is a weirdly compelling collage of sing-along riffs, soulful backing coos and whiplash guitar solos that sounds like Billy Corgan being electrocuted. But the tipping point is the six-minute title track—a bizarre concoction of textured guitar doodling and flanged space-funk.
For Those Who Stay was recorded at a proper studio, The Bathouse in Kingston—the duo’s first chance to explore “fancy gear” and an expanded sonic palette. (Their childlike wonder is palpable—you can practically hear Saulnier cackling like a guitar warlord during the feedback-wah-wah breakdown on “More of the Same.”) But in spite of this newfound expansiveness, PS I Love You haven’t quite morphed into Yes—the riffs still explode with the same epic weight, and Saulnier’s cracked tenor still recalls a jittery Tom Verlaine.
The album ends with “Hoarders,” a tongue-in-cheek blast of distorted power-pop. “How do you live like this? / Where does everything fit?” Saulnier sings in a multi-tracked chirp, backed by melted power chords. It’s a post-coital sonic cigarette, a playful sign-off after a compelling re-introduction. And boy, do they earn it.