Music

Jack Peñate: Everything Is New

Photo: Alex Sturrock

A "new direction" that for once is actually new, Peñate doesn't sound anything like his first album and that's very much for the better.


Jack Peñate

Everything Is New

Label: XL
US Release Date: 2009-08-18
UK Release Date: 2009-06-22
Amazon
iTunes

If nothing else, give Jack Peñate this: unlike almost all artists who talk up a new album by speaking of “a change in direction", he’s actually put his money where his mouth is. The songs on Peñate’s first album Matinée were at best nondescript, at worst risible, and all had the same kind of sound: a post-Libertines and post-Lily Allen flurry of ska-ish guitar, ‘clever’ lyrics, faux lower class accent and a toxic combination of earnestness and ‘irony’ that, along with Peñate’s relentlessly chipper songs and seeming inability to get out of first gear, kind of made you want to punch him in the face. Peñate was exactly the sort of artist who the fickle UK music press tends to champion for a single or two and then viciously turn on, and sure enough that’s exactly what happened.

To have such a one-note, not terribly successful artist say to the NME just as he finished recording that debut that he wanted to get on to his second album as soon as possible so he wouldn’t get trapped into one style of music is surprising, but also usually a dodge. The history of pop music suggests that Everything Is New ought to be another album of his turbo-cod-rockabilly pop, and as thus could be swiftly dismissed. But first single “Tonight’s Today” suggested something genuinely different as soon as the softly pulsing keyboard tones, shuffling beat and sighing backing vocalists all fade in. There’s something hazy and fluttering about “Tonight’s Today” that’s utterly unexpected, and Peñate and producer Paul Epworth have surrounded Peñate’s unexpectedly dextrous and effective rhythm section with perfectly chosen elements. Even Peñate’s guitar is much improved, floating and chiming instead of always just strumming towards oblivion.

And then there’s the lyrics; Peñate is probably never going to be a devastating wordsmith, but “Tonight’s Today” manages to turn a narrative about stumbling out of the club in the morning into a meditation on inevitability and life. The result is a song that’s not just better than you’d expect from Peñate, but is genuinely great no matter who made it. And as it turns out, it’s not a fluke; the brief, compact Everything Is New has eight more songs of similar quality and similarly inventive arrangements. There’s an appealingly broad range to the sounds and influences here, everything from tropicalia to soul to African music to the currently hip Balearic sound, but Peñate has been able to forge all these little elements into a coherent sound, one that’s equally incantatory and joyful, rhythmic and soaring, au courant and out of time.

Lyrically, Everything Is New embraces not just the idea of the new, but of change in general. Not just the title track, but also “Pull My Heart Away", So Near", “Give Yourself Away", and “Let’s All Die” suggest not just romantic stress or general angst but an examination into letting go. Although Peñate never dips into any specific terminology, the elation with which he can sing a song like “Let’s All Die” and the way all the songs here embrace transformation and acceptance of whatever comes places his viewpoint here firmly (if a bit awkwardly – this is still pop music) in the tradition that includes everything from Stoicism to Schopenhauer to Buddhism. Paired with such sunny, rhythmically invigorating music (the drummer here, who wasn’t given much of a chance to shine on Matinée, especially deserves praise), the result is a celebratory album about the fact that we all die eventually, we all leave eventually, we all don’t get what we want. That it’s couched in such swirling, euphoric music is an unexpected masterstroke, one that turns Everything Is New into not just an unexpected comeback but an album that suggests that whatever guise he adopts next Jack Peñate is worth watching.

7
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

"I'm an Audience Member, Playing This Music for Us": An Interview With Keller Williams

Veteran musician Keller Williams discusses his special relationship with the Keels, their third album together, Speed, and what he learned from following the Grateful Dead.

Books

Shintaro Kago's 'Dementia 21' Showcases Surrealist Manga

As much as I admire Shintaro Kago's oddness as a writer, his artistic pen is even sharper (but not without problems) as evident in Dementia 21.

Music

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Proclaim 'Jazz Is Dead!' Long Live Jazz!

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their live collaborative efforts with jazz veterans to recorded life with Jazz Is Dead 001, a taste of more music to come.

Film

"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.

Music

Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.

Music

'Harmony' Is About As Bill Frisell As a Bill Frisell Recording Can Be

Bill Frisell's debut on Blue Note Records is a gentle recording featuring a few oddball gems, particularly when he digs into the standard repertoire with Petra Haden's voice out front.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 4, James Chance to the Pop Group

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part four with Talking Heads, the Fall, Devo and more.

Music

Raye Zaragoza's "Fight Like a Girl" Shatters the Idea of What Women Can and Can't Do (premiere)

Singer-songwriter and activist Raye Zaragoza's new single, "Fight Like a Girl", is an empowering anthem for intersectional feminism, encouraging resilience amongst all women.

Music

VickiKristinaBarcelona Celebrate Tom Waits on "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (premiere)

VickiKristinaBarcelona celebrate the singular world of Tom Waits their upcoming debut, Pawn Shop Radio. Hear "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" ahead of tomorrow's single release.

Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.