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Penny Blacks

Harbour

(self-released; US: 25 Oct 2011; UK: 25 Oct 2011)

Music that leaves little impression

Penny Blacks are an Edinburgh-based folkie-rock outfit whose sound revolves around the vocals of frontman Jason Ogden. This is unfortunate, considering Ogden lacks a voice that is compelling or even memorably quirky. Songs range from uninspired midtempo numbers like “You’ll Never Know” and “Heaven Help Your Heart”  to lukewarm tunes like “She’s Losing Herself”, “Homefire Ashes” and “Maybe You Should Get Out”.


A couple slightly more vigorous tunes enliven the proceedings slightly—“Things Can’t Stay the Same” and “The Winding Comet Tail” are probably the bounciest songs on display—but we’re talking mightily small degrees of difference. Every so often you encounter a band that is so middle of the road, you wonder what compelled anyone to commit the tunes to tape. Such is the case here. There is a degree of basic competence, but very little that rises above that. This is music that manages to be forgettable even as you’re listening to it.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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