I think Peter McPoland might’ve lost his mind a little bit in the last couple of years, and I kind of love that for him.
Becoming a fan of Peter’s music has been an experience of its own; it made me realize that even though I am a rampant music fan, I am not on the music side of TikTok—and I do spend a concerning amount of time on the app. You will never find a video of someone promoting their music, telling the story behind the lyrics, or trying to create trends with snippets of songs, on my For You page. This is not to say that that type of content is bad, I understand that TikTok has given us access to an incredible amount of music and talented people, and it is a great way for musicians to reach a broader audience quicker, but it’s simply not a part of my relationship with music.
On that note, I actually had no idea Peter was a TikTok baby until after I became hyperfixated on his music, which is kind of funny considering a lot of his current releases are about the loudness of the internet and the way we all partly live online. Makes me think that he would be proud of me for not knowing he got his start on TikTok, even if that makes me a fake fan of sorts.
The first hints about this album, PIGGY, could be found in some of Peter’s Instagram captions from last year (pig emojis and “oink oink” references), and he’s admitted that he actually started writing the songs in 2021, after he got signed to Columbia Records, a highlight of his career, but also in the midst of his parents’ divorce and after endless months of writer’s block. Only in March of this year though, a snippet of “Digital Silence”—track 5 on the album—and potentially my top song of the year—made numbers on TikTok and created a decent amount of anticipation among listeners for an unannounced new project. Once the full song came out, Peter started openly talking about “the album of the millennium” and after a few more singles we finally made it to this day.
The 22-year-old has been very vocal about his music and production journey. If it weren’t for his very distinctive voice, you could think his older stuff was made by someone else. Piggy, the album and the song, feel like a breakthrough musically and emotionally—it’s overwhelming and conflicting, marked by the purposeful dissonance of instruments and sounds, that perfectly pinpoint what it feels like to be alive in this digital age. I kind of sound like a boomer, I know, but listening to these songs feels freeing in the way screaming in your car when no one can hear you does. It also really makes me want to throw my phone into a lake and just go off the grid for a while.
“Mold,” one of Peter’s favorite songs on the album, is a staggering opening to the project, especially for people that might come expecting more of his folky, acoustic background. The track could not step further away from the one that made him thrive on TikTok, “Romeo & Juliet,” and it exposes how he has reinvented himself and finally reached the sound he had been trying to achieve all along. For the single announcement of “Digital Silence,” he wrote: “I experimented and fell in love with production again and felt so close to the little boy who made Romeo & Juliet. He would love these songs—he tried making these types of songs back then but he was plain bad at production”.
The idea of growing out of something has always made me uneasy—I even feel weird when I stop liking an artist I’ve loved for a very long time or when listening to them doesn’t feel the same. It’s like I don’t like the idea of stepping away from things that have been a part of my life, so I stick to them even if they don’t fulfill me or feel the same anymore. Unlike me, though, Peter fully embraced the fact that he’s growing up, and that with time, he’s changed and doesn’t need to stay in the same lane he’s been on for years. He switched gears out of nowhere and still went on full speed, and I can’t help but appreciate the mental and emotional effort that that might’ve taken.
PIGGY portrays a juxtaposition of online life and human nature in a way that doesn’t feel forced. It’s grainy and noisy enough to still reveal the origins of the songs: they were all written by Peter alone and originally produced in his Brooklyn apartment. Even the singles, with the exception of “Blue”, are all fully produced by him in his bedroom, which is insane to me considering how augmented and immense the songs feel. The LP shows his range of genres too; “Turn Off The Noise” leans into electronic territory, “Find Me Out” screams late 2000s indie rock, and “I Need You” brings a little bit of a weird approach to alternative music that actually works.
“Dog” will inevitably throw a lot of people off with the lyrics, but musically I would say works as a transition from his older music to the current one. The crescendo from a quiet guitar and soft voice, to a large instrumental and an aching, screaming voice is exhilarating in a way that is not abrasive at all, despite the roughness of the sounds. It is a little weird and further confirms my theory that he has lost his mind a bit, but at the same time is a great depiction of raw emotion that also leaves space for interpretation.
In the album there’s also a song that is the first one he ever wrote with his high school band, and that was even recorded with the original members. I’m still not sure which one it is, I wasn’t able to tell by looking at the credits, I just know that it’s in there somewhere and to be honest, the uncertainty makes it kind of exciting. My two big guesses right now are “Were You There?” and “I Want You,” but it might as well be any of the other songs.
This vulnerability and transparency in the album is probably already enough to make Peter’s art attractive to people, but I can’t help but read into it even more because of the way he’s documented the whole process on social media, as ironic as that is. The self-awareness of this boy that sings about being chronically online and simultaneously posts regularly on Instagram and even Youtube, seems admirable and genuine to me. He’s embraced the reality of the way we live today, and he’s actively trying to make the most of it while also not letting it consume him in the worst way. PIGGY shows the other side of things, the behind the scenes of his online persona, but it’s complimentary to it, not hypocritical or self-contradictory.
To quote his notes app screenshots from Instagram once again, Peter has said that this is “an album lover’s album.” It’s meant to be listened to in full, it’s a cohesive project where all songs create something bigger together. An interesting and maybe bold choice for someone that got his start with the virality and fleetingness of 15 second videos, but as an album lover myself, it works for me.
As a whole, PIGGY reflects on the overwhelming weight of just existing and having to be alive, it addresses the noise and the inevitability of falling into the thick of it all. But by acknowledging it, it allows me to take a step back and look at it for what it is: something external and loud that doesn’t have to define who I am.
Peter McPoland will be going on his Piggy North American Tour this fall.
PIGGY is out now.