Release Date: Aug 18, 2009
Record label: XL
Atestament to the power of having nothing to lose, the second album from south Londoner Peñate is one of 2009's more pleasant surprises. Few would have bet on the singer-songwriter doing anything but struggle after his brief, unsatisfactory spell in the limelight two years ago. The glorified busking that filled his slight debut album Matinee did little to dispel the view that, being the grandson of Gormenghast author Mervyn Peake and a product of private schooling, Peñate was just another upper-middle-class indie kid on the make, a well-spoken, fashionably dressed arriviste.
It says something about the musical climate that consternation can be caused by an artist making an album markedly different to its predecessor. Perhaps it's something to do with the long shadow cast by Oasis's continued success, which suggests that a rock band's career should ideally be a kind of forced march: you trudge doggedly along a fixed route and any unexpected deviation is punished by a public too thick to cope with change. So it was that the Horrors' recent second album was greeted with astonishment, partly because the Horrors had actually survived their own hype to make a second album, but mostly because it didn't sound like their debut: here instead was a Krautrock- and electronica-influenced delight, its pleasures alloyed only by the terrifying thought that its more lovelorn numbers might have been inspired by Peaches Geldof.
British singer/songwriter Jack Peñate knows a thing or two about starting over. At the age of 24, with his 2007 debut album Matinee already having snagged him a spot on the U.K. charts and a cover of NME, Peñate headed back to the studio, ready to try something different. He emerged with Everything Is New, an album that expands his radio-friendly sound to include Brazilian, Afrobeat, and lo-fi hip-hop influences without sacrificing any of his trademark every-man likeability.
Shape-shifting London-based pop auteur Jack Peñate's 2007 debut was slick and soulful 2-Tone ska revival that had its sights clearly aimed at establishing a rapport with the notoriously fickle U.K. singles charts. Clearly unsatisfied artistically, Peñate decided to try out a slew of other genres for 2009's aptly titled Everything Is New, an effervescent nine-track rendering of Afro-beat, dance-pop, tropicalia, and blue-eyed soul that flirts with greatness enough to warrant subsequent spins.
If there's one thing the past decade achieved, it was further emphasizing the amorphous, ambiguous meaninglessness of the word "pop." After all, every artist, no matter how outré, wants people to listen to their records, and ideally as many people as possible. Sure, some make it easier and some make it harder, but no one wants their music to be ignored. Still, those who aspire to make pop music as such presumably value accessibility, and there are any number of tricks-- studio, stylistic, marketing-- one can enlist to pull that off.
Jack Peñate's record label XL have had a little bit of a dig at his debut, Matinée. The blurb that accompanies the promotional release of follow up Everything Is New describes the Peñate who made 2007's top ten debut album as a 'kid,' producing 'good stuff, but not stirring, take-your-head-off stuff.' The first record was immature, they say, the new one is inspired by the lo-fi krautrock, Philly soul, bashment and reggaeton movements. The label hierarchy couldn't have been that disgruntled.
Click here to get your copy of Jack Penate’s ‘Everything Is New’ from the Rough Trade shop.
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.
I don’t think anyone could have expected this type of album from UK singer-songwriter, Jack Peñate. After the much-maligned limelight that he felt a few years back for his gawkish, somewhat awkward debut, he has now made what appears to be a bloody soul album; funny, I know. The singer’s voice is still on full display on Everything is New but this time, he’s added synths, dance-ready pop and a wistful amount of fleshy depth.