Reviewed by Eugenia Vela.
|Rating: 6.5 of 10.|
After more than a decade, New York City’s Blonde Redhead still strikes me as a band with work that is constantly done under the radar, followed by passionate fans eagerly wondering what they’ll do next. Blonde Redhead is back with their newest album, Penny Sparkle, a collection just as mysterious as its creators.
When listening to Penny Sparkle, I couldn’t help but think of winter. Winter doesn’t truly have a soundtrack, apart from Christmas jingles that tend to get annoying one week into December. Summer, on the other hand, overflows with songs of happiness and freedom, albums of sunshine and open spaces. Penny Sparkle lives in winter. To me, Sparkle floats in a warm dream of freezing weather, comfort and release in a tighter space.
Blonde Redhead’s greatest talent is the ability to make music that isn’t necessarily popular, may not be exactly danceable, but is and always has been atmospheric, personal and emotional. Created both in New York and Stockholm, the album holds both light and darkness in its lyrics and melodies. Tracks like “Here Sometimes” and “Oslo,” two of my favorites, work both for peace and turbulence, a bipolar storm of music. Listeners will recognize in Penny Sparkle the signature sound of Blonde Redhead, which by now is inevitably linked by its followers to the likes of Bat for Lashes and Frou Frou.
Even though Kazu Makino’s entrancing voice manages to guide us along the Sparkle ride, the album’s imperfections are blatant in its lack of range. Yes, a collection must be relevant, and this one in particular definitely flows. But I must admit, third song into the album, I was bored. I know bands must be defined by style, but Penny Sparkle was, at least for me, too much of the same.
However powerful an effort, this album lacks innovation—when first listening to it, I couldn’t help but remember when I first heard “23” way back when, and notice I didn’t feel the same excitement. I have no doubt that if I were to witness Penny Sparkle live, I’d be blown away—but within the boundaries of a CD, I’m left unaffected. Yes, this latest album still holds the beautiful lyrical imagery Blonde Redhead is known for, but Penny Sparkle lacks the freshness and rejuvenation of the band’s past creations.