The Penguin League overcomes its self-applied cuteness by giving us songs that seem simple, but are full of more interesting elements that make them bloom with repeat listens.
Everything about Antarctica Takes It! seems cute: they have a cute name; their album, The Penguin League, has a cute title; their lyrics can even be cute ("Send me a signal cross my circuitry", they sing on "Circuits"). But their bedroom indie pop can be pretty deceptive. Every click and clang of ramshackle percussion is a scratch on the album's shiny surface. The rasp of a harmonica or an accordion ripples over the calm waters of these songs. Singer Dylan McKeever's voice is hushed and simple and, at first listen, could seem like the sound of a sweet little indie boy. But on "Heart of Stone" or "Goodbye" he could be walking the lonesome road with the ghost of Lee Hazlewood. The album can occasionally slip into something more precious -- "Circuits" neglects the bands strongest elements in favor of straightforward twee pop -- but in general this is an album that equals more than the sum of its parts. It stands up to multiple listens because, unlike so many of its ilk, it has hidden gems -- not precious stones, mind you, but jagged unpolished rocks -- buried throughout for you to go back and find.