Penfold – Our First Taste of Escape

Our First Taste of Escape

I’ve been listening to this album for a few months now, thanks to a copy of the album attained by an eager fan well ahead of its release date. And there was no doubt in my mind that Penfold’s new album was going to be one of my favorites of the year. In fact, Our First Taste of Escape will likely go down as one of my favorite emo albums, period. Not since the glory days of Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate has an album been so tight and rocking yet so powerfully and emotionally charged. This New Jersey band has something special here, and you simply must hear it.

Improving leaps and bounds on their first EP, which was itself a strong release, the production here is impeccable, and the instrumentation stellar. The guitars are melodic and intricate, as you might expect, but the combination of instruments is perfect, with enough effects used to provide a new take on the emo sound. And the vocals soar, from high and sweet to deep and sad, perfect for the music. And to those who say we don’t need another emotional post-punk band, I say listen to Penfold first. These guys aren’t re-hashing Mineral, they’re putting a modern take on that style of music and mastering it.

The first two songs, collectively titled “The Opportune Moment, Fate, Confidence and an Encounter,” kick things off slowly, with a more desperate-tinged approach, and “The Secret Nine” picks up with a more driving rock, with faster, layered guitars leading into quieter, more melodic moments. The chorus (“And I wake up / will I ever be the same? / Understanding the sacrifice we made”) is one of the album’s best moments, with driving guitars and almost screamed vocals. That loud-soft dynamic is evident on many songs, providing a three-dimensionality that’s missing from most emo-wannabe bands. The driving “Human Drama” shows off the band at it’s hardest at times and its quietest. The vocals come just as strongly, “Are we breaking new ground, are we hearing the sound of our voices echoed as screams / Do these thoughts sting your skin like the sarcasm shot from our tongues through our teeth.”

The title track is one of the album’s highlights, showing a more deliberate, straight-forward approach, with some great echoed effects and a nice, moody intensity. The dreamy “The Sound of Jazz” shows the band’s talented instrumentation and more textured rock style, and “Brilliance” continues with a quieter, more subdued sound. Continuing the trend on the second half of the album toward quieter songs, “Kissing the Nightmare” is gorgeous and melodic, but it picks up, the guitars coming in about half-way through and propelling the story-like lyrics, and by the end, this song is literally souring. It would have made a fine last track, but then there’s “Reflexivity,” an ethereal track spaced-out with keyboards and kept grounded with melodic guitar lines.

Some will likely hold this band’s sound against them. Some don’t want to hear any more emo bands. But those people will be missing out on one of the best emo bands, regardless of when this album is released. And Penfold has done more than rehash an old sound – they’ve made it their own and done things with a precision and urgency that’s been lacking. All in all, this is an incredible album and one you simply must own.