Review Summary: Although they may need to diversify their sound, Penpal show a few subtle strokes of genius on their self-titled debut.
Penpal’s debut album is comparable to American Football
– it tumbles and rolls gently through waves of atmospheric electric guitar picking overtop of simple, repetitive drum beats. It never seems to be in a hurry to do…well…much of anything
. This shouldn’t be taken as a criticism, though, because it is exactly that which gives Penpal
its chill vibe, gorgeous flow, and endless room for experimentation. The fact that Penpal never seems anxious to throw everything they’ve got at you leaves plenty of room for the album to gradually and naturally progress – adding a new instrument here, a moving solo there – and giving the listener new twists and turns all the way until the very end. There are certainly moments when Penpal
starts to get repetitive, but luckily they never last for too
long before the album is revived by something completely unique and experimental. Take “Japanese Bonus Track” for instance…the last minute of the song single-handedly breathes new life and energy into the music with several distorted, fairly complex electric guitar riffs that could fit right in on any rock n’ roll album. The power and emotion that radiates from each riff can be felt with refreshing lucidity due to the way that the band slowly and very progressively sets up its entrance. Then there is the way that “Two by Two” incorporates some math rock and indie influences in the opening portion of the song, helping to draw the listener in for the soft, trance-like jam session that ensues. Penpal
is slow to develop, but when it does, the results are well worth the wait. Fans of experimental math rock and indie rock, take notice.