After fifteen years, it is almost expected for a band to have settled into a certain sound. However, it's also easily the first step into artistic stagnation and an inevitable fall into obscurity. This will not be the case for the New York based trio, Blonde Redhead. Penny Sparkle
, the bands eighth album, shows the group taking a turn into a simplistic world accompanied by synthesizers, programmed drums and ethereal vocals revealing a completely new and refreshing sound. Although a risky swap, it proves a valuable one.
The album may at times come off as overly simple. But a closer look will change that view, as complex nuances begin to reveal themselves. The stand-out instrument in this newer, simpler world is front-woman Kazu's voice (and oh what a beautiful voice it is!). The opening track "Here Sometimes" features almost tribal electronic drums and syths that sit back in the shadows of Kazu's moody crooning. This is followed by "Not Getting There," with its distorted synth lines and occasional acoustic drums appearances, all harkening back to the band's 2007 single "23." This is really the only time when the listener feels any sense of nostalgia while listening to any of the songs on Penny Sparkle
. "Love or Prison" is a dark, moody track that is overly simple yet wildly complex. This guitar hits whole notes as the drum machine lays down an elementary beat. Then on the other side, Kazu's vocal lines leaps and falls from note to note in way that could only be described as utterly elegant.
The album lacks any track that could be deemed single worthy, mainly because every song is virtually hookless. This causes some of the tracks to take on extremely similar feels and almost blend together at times... however, this is easily forgiven as you listen to the soothing beats and graceful vocal harmonies. The group shows their adventurous spirit as they prove to be one of the best avant-garde bands in the genre today. This is an album that can be appreciated by hipsters and trip-hop fans alike. It's refreshing to see a seasoned group like this still searching for new challenges musically when so many groups in their age group have settled down. In that respect, the hook is their deft exploration of new terrain, rather than a catchy, fleeting melody. In today's world, that might mean more.-brendan mehan
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MP3: "Not Getting There"
Blonde Redhead on Myspace