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.
Talk about completely reinventing yourself, disregarding the past sounds like a noble feat and Peñate is set on accomplishing just that. Doing his best Jamie Lidell impression, Peñate pulls off some of 2009’s most unexpected music with his take on pop and its assorted disguises. He even goes a step forward with “Give Yourself Away” and its afro-Cuban beats and chants. Dancing to the beat of his own drum, Peñate dares us to let everything go and then sings “I bet you can do it.” Invigorated and energized once again, his inhibitions are replaced with brave decisions this go around.
Whether it’s the falsetto-chime and Reggae guitar on “Let’s All Die,” or the horns and flashy boldness of “Be the One,” Peñate sounds confident and more importantly, finally comfortable in his own skin. There’s a certain kind of appropriate victory on the closing song, “Body Down.” Easily the most soulful performance on the entire album, it might be the piano, the calm guitar plucking or the fact that Peñate embraces his inner emotions on the song’s chorus, all in all, it’s a triumphant way to close us out.
Now, this isn’t to say that everything is pure gold on Peñate’ sophomore effort either, but at just nine songs long, his new niche doesn’t have much of chance to grow old. Peñate’s always had to work on his lyrics and the stories he’s trying to express but with music that is this playful, it’s hard to fault him for any silly lines. On the title track, he’s found bouncing away and singing such silliness as, “Everything is new now, dance away defeat.” A metaphor to his own struggles in the past, now that everything is indeed anew; there is no need to hold back.
The happy-go-lucky trance on “So Near” is exactly what that kind of embodiment reflects. Willing to dance away while all the while knowing and realizing that there is so much left to achieve is all Peñate wants to do. “Love is not a game, it’s something that I’m desperate not to take” is what he’s singing about now and then later on, it’s all about how “Every moment passes by me” (and his pronunciation of the word “passes” is a joy to hear) and just forgetting all of the misfortunes one has experienced.
The method one chooses on a sophomore album is always going to be a dealbreaker for most, it not all. Regardless of how successful your debut was, the second album is what makes or breaks you as a serious musical artist. Everything is New is a gifted and resounding response to the many nay-sayers out there. It’s not the best Peñate could have done but who else could have expected this kind of departure?
“Tonight’s Today” by Jack Peñate