There’s something retro and fun about the cover art for Pennan Brae’s album ‘Arcade’ and honestly, after the day I’ve had, I found myself just staring into the cover and getting lost. Let’s take a dive into the actual music here and see if it has the same effect!
As soon as “Hold The Line” started, I knew I had found a new best friend. An infectious beat that wastes no time in hitting like a wave, this song instantly shifted my mood from crabby and stressed to ready to dance around my living room like an idiot. The vocals are a bit strange in this opening track and it took me a little bit to get used to them if I’m being perfectly honest. They are almost whispered but with a sense of darkness and panic in them. It’s strange and something that I’m not sure I want to continue on throughout the album but I did find them to be super unique and truly catch my ear.
The vocals definitely changed as the album moved onto “Stage Right” but only slightly. Even with that slight change though, everything felt a bit different for this second track. It’s a bit brighter but with the same infectious beat. This song is a bit more electrified which I really liked yet it had an almost retro feeling to it that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. That vibe continued into “Jettison”, the third track on the album, but turned into an almost retro surf-rock thing. The chorus of “Jettison” instantly hooked me. It’s fairly simple but the cleanliness of it and just the overall production really seemed to fit this retro vibe that Pennan Brae has throughout the album.
Fourth up on ‘Arcade’ is “Swing On A Vine” which was an instant favorite of mine. It still have Pennan Brae’s retro vibe to it but the guitar work has a more good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll feeling to it making it feel like an instant classic. The vocals are still a bit whispered in that strange way I tried to explain in the opening track but, by this point, I was really feeling them and loved the way they fit with everything else. It’s as if Pennan wants you to focus on everything and keeps the vocals in line with everything else as if to not outshine the instrumentation.
“Rumble” starts with a super quick but catchy drum fill before the guitars come in and go deeper into that good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll vibe I felt in the previous track. Catchy seems to be the name of the game for Pennan Brae and he does it super well. Even if the vocal style isn’t for you or even the way this was recorded to really showcase all of the elements throughout the album, there’s no denying that these songs are catchy and I feel like “Rumble” is a great example of that.
“Bon Voyage” marks the “just over half way point” of the album but there is clearly still more to hear from Pennan Brae. At this point, all of the songs kind of start to blend together. Typically, this is a bad thing to me because I want to hear all sides of bands when I listen to bands but I really liked how we just keep diving in deeper and deeper to Pennan’s unique sound. This song showcases a really cool part throughout the song where the vocals and guitar almost match up but with a sound of dissonance. Yet again, although in writing that sounds like it shouldn’t work, it works for Pennan Brae and it works seriously so perfectly.
The longest track on this ten song album is “Sauntering” but, as you’re playing through this album, you probably won’t notice that it’s almost five minutes long due to the driving drum beat and constantly moving guitars. Unlike the previous songs, I noticed a super clear composition of multiple movements in this track which impressed me. There’s this moment right around the one minute mark (and it repeats around the four minute mark) where it seems like you get a glimpse into another track entirely before it goes back to the “main part” of “Sauntering”. I really liked this because I felt like I got multiple songs in one but it was clearly all one song. This was another favorite of mine because of this and if you only have time for one song from Pennan Brae, I think it should be this one.
We go from the longest track to the shortest as the album moves onto “Shrug”. This track seems to have just a bit more attitude than the previous tracks. It’s still not a punk anthem or anything like that but this new attitude was amazing and something I wish I had had more of. Just when I was getting into this track though, it was over and the album had moved onto “Ricochet”. “Ricochet” hits you with a sense of power right at the beginning but, overall, this was one of the lighter tracks on the album. There’s almost a sense of fun behind it that I really liked. That comes in the form of staccato styled vocals and fun drum patterns. This was a fun little bop to listen to and it made me dread what was coming next…
The final track on this album is “Arrival Time” and, in true Pennan Brae fashion, he ends this album with a song that sounds completely different than the others. This final track has a sense of sweetness which is only amplified by the sound of a second vocal performer whose voice compliments Pennan’s perfectly. I really liked the fact that this feels like an ending song. It’s the type of vibe that just signals the end of something while not leaving you with questions or anything like that. It truly was the perfect ending to the amazing album that is ‘Arcade’.
My Favorite Track(s): “Swing On A Vine”; “Sauntering”
For Fans Of: Unique sounds; Retro vibes; Overall Brilliance
Mosh-ability: 3 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Alfie chased Autumn around; Poor Artie is sick so he just laid on the back of the couch
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 7 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 7.6 out of 10
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