Reviewed by Jack Derricourt
I’ll always love the Unicorns. Their songs dealt in ghosts, death, and intimate phone calls, yet they kept the groove alive and well-fed. I remember hearing them in the Second Story Teahouse at age fifteen. They had so many people dancing up in that tiny space that the heritage floorboards could be seen to jump beneath the crowded dance floor.
Skip forward a generation and Alden Penner of said floorboard forsaking band is out on his own and doing quite well thank you very much. Penner has released a new EP, Precession, and it is loaded with healthy variety and confessional anxiety.
Sounds rush at the listener from a multitude of directions on Penner’s new release. Hallowed synth lines and drum machines start “Beauty of the Lamb,” only to be followed by dry, delicate acoustic guitar coming on front and centre. Fuzzed out guitar and swaying drums that would fit in at a Black Keys garage session play beautiful havoc in the midst of the muted sounds of the record on the album’s title track. Listeners will find it easy to be surprised during the all-too short running time of Precession.
The lyrics on the EP contain true tenderness. Penner knows the quiet art of selecting few words and singing those he does choose as boldly and passionately as possible. I always loved the sound of Penner’s voice. His high vocal tones feature an eerie quality heard in the ballads of John Jacob Niles; and with songs like the Romeo and Juliet two-minute saga, “No Peace,” that connection has never seemed so strong.
“Precession” stands out as the pinnacle of the EP. A muted, swaying folk tune that plunges into a funky lakebed at the one-minute mark, it tells a story of vulnerability with just one line. The tracks on the release are self-consciously contained, and the lyric seems obsessed with the permeation of the borders drawn by the form of the song. Escape is reiterated through an exploration of its absence.
You will not want to escape this collection of delicate pop tunes. Listen and enjoy.
Top Tracks: “Precession” ; “Beauty of the Lamb”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)