I’m overwhelmed by everything right now. I feel like that has been the case for the past week. Maybe it’s stress over the lack of air conditioning and knowing I will be signing over my bank account this coming week to get it replaced or maybe it’s exhaustion from just being super busy with all of my side hustles as well as my day job… regardless, I’m overwhelmed and need something to help calm me down. Will Pencildive’s new album ‘Grown-Ups’ be the thing to do it?
“Is Anyone Real” gets this ten-song album started with a catchy bassline before fuzzy guitars come in and drive this opening track forward. Although a quick little intro at under three minutes long, this first song lays out a super unique and cool sound that is a signature of Pencildive. The vocals are powerful but clear. I love the juxtaposition of the style of vocals to the more aggressive and almost grungey instrumentation. A powerful crescendo leads into “Kids” in a stunning way while allowing a sense of space for the mood to shift. The more hurried and almost frantic powerful sound is replaced by something ever so slightly calmer. Again, I found myself completely captivated by the vocal styling in this track. The way the words soar over everything else in this track is gorgeous. “Kids” is nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. Although it starts off powerful and a bit in your face, it shifts to something much more delicate within the first minute before shifting back into a sound of dissonance by the minute and a half mark. This stark contrast made “Kids” an instant favorite of mine.
Power is the name of the game for Pencildive and “The Sweats” is a perfect example of that. I can’t quite put my finger on all of the influences heard in this album but the list is long and bounces between Alice in Chains to The Cure to Siouxsie and the Banshees– it’s seriously all over the place not only stylistically, but also time period-wise making Pencildive’s sound truly unclassifiable and interesting.
There’s something almost sweet and tender about “Freaking Me Out”. While still having Pencildive’s signature sense of energy, there’s just something a bit more sing-song about “Freaking Me Out” that brought me a sense of calm that I had been wanting. Compared to the previous songs, this one is a bit quieter overall. There’s a beautiful crescendo in the song but, even at the climax of it, there’s just something a bit more indie-pop based about this song whereas the previous songs felt a bit grungier.
The sludge and fuzzy guitars that kick off “My Arms” caught me off guard after the more tender nature of “Freaking Me Out” but this track seemed to find a balance between the power and tenderness of Pencildive. Moments of pure bliss felt in the vocals seem to be interrupted by the powerful guitar and drum sound that Pencildive has showcased previously in this album in a perfect way. Although this track isn’t my favorite song lyrically, there was something about it that I couldn’t get enough of so I was a little disappointed as the album continued onto “Skin” before I felt like I had gotten everything I wanted out of “My Arms”.
“Skin” has such a great, almost jazzy, intro to it and it instantly became another favorite of mine. This track stands out from the previous songs because of this almost jazzy influence but, don’t fear, it’s another clearly Pencildive created track. There’s energy, angst, and power interrupted by moments of pure beauty and tenderness. Although the jazziness falls by the wayside to make room for “Bookends” there’s still something a bit more classic about the feeling of this track. I can not stress how dynamic Pencildive’s sound is. You think you know where a track is going but then they change course instantly leaving you lost for words. That’s exactly what happens during “Bookends”. Haunting and explosive, “Bookends” is a perfect example of the power that this band has.
The grungey feeling from the beginning few tracks of this album comes back with a vengeance for “Face”. Although the vocals always had me stuck in the palm of Pencildive’s hand, it wasn’t until this track that I really tried to focus on the lyrics and it made me love this band even more. Like usual, I’m not going to give it all away but I love the way the lyrics focus on mental health while not offering a judgment or even solution– they literally just describe what goes through your head when struggling with depression, anxiety, or a slew of any other mental health problems and I loved that. It makes you feel understood in a world that likes to put a stigma on talking about mental health.
The second to last track on this album is the title track, “Grown-Ups”. The feeling of this track connected perfectly to that of “Face” making it feel almost like two segments of the same track. There’s a sense of clarity in the instrumentation of this track that feels a bit different than the previous track. This makes “Grown-Ups” stand out while still clearly being that of Pencildive. The movement in this track is stunning. There are breaks and pauses brilliantly placed throughout this track that seem to help emphasize the story the vocals are telling. I was so lost in it all that I never wanted it to end but, all good things must come to an end.
I expected this album to end on a song full of power and angst just like how it started but, instead, “Dead and Swollen” ends this powerful listen on a more somber and delicate note. Much like the other songs that felt just a bit more tender, there’s no lack of energy or emotion in this final track keeping with Pencildive’s distinct style and sound. As this track played on and closed out this album, I realized that it really was the perfect ending to this rollercoaster ride. Much like a coaster, it slows down to the end as if allowing you a chance to catch your breath and reflect on the journey and what a journey it has been.
Pencildive’s sound is unique while having familiar elements that pop in and out throughout it. It’s dynamic, powerful, and angsty while being beautiful, tender, and sensitive at times. Really, this is the perfect blend of so many things and I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever heard a band present all of these things in such a flawless and beautiful way before.
My Favorite Track(s): “Kids”; “Skin”
For Fans Of: Rollercoasters; Power; Grungey vibes
Mosh-ability: 6 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Artie laid on the floor of the living room; Autumn ate what was left of her breakfast
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 7 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 7.8 out of 10
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