Everything Is New
Sep 02, 2009 Issue #27 Summer 2009 - Jarvis Cocker
British singer/songwriter Jack Peñate knows a thing or two about starting over. At the age of 24, with his 2007 debut album Matinee already having snagged him a spot on the U.K. charts and a cover of NME, Peñate headed back to the studio, ready to try something different. He emerged with Everything Is New, an album that expands his radio-friendly sound to include Brazilian, Afrobeat, and lo-fi hip-hop influences without sacrificing any of his trademark every-man likeability. Grouped into the "Estuary English" pack of U.K. pop-performers who sing without altering their English accent, a category that includes the likes of Lily Allen, Kate Nash, and Adele, Peñate's sophomore effort represents a major step forward, demonstrating that he might just have the chops to outstrip the lot of 'em.
At a lean nine tracks, Everything Is New is an ambitious, cohesive meditation on a classic theme: the very nature of life and death. While brief—the album runs just over the half-hour mark—Peñate's observations are tossed off, not with a youthfully cavalier view of mortality, but rather succinctly offered in a wise-beyond-his-years recognition that happiness comes though embracing life's seasons in full. The topic of living gets its time in the spotlight on the titular ode to a changed perspective, "Everything Is New"—its harps, wall of beats, and reverb creating an atmosphere of danceable optimism. But it is really living in the shadow death that Peñate is concerned with. Or rather, as closing track "Lay Your Body Down" succinctly phrases the argument in relation to everyone's enviable demise, "It's going to get you in the end/So you might as well become its friend."
Despite a fixation on death, coloring Peñate's relationship with God, girls, and himself, Everything Is New also manages to deftly skirt a singularly morose viewpoint. From the house beats and carpe-diem refrain of "Tonight's Today," to the Tropicala-flavored New Orleans-inspired, "Let's All Die"—urging us with its chorus "When our life is over let's not cry"—the album sings from start to finish with the hard-won joy of an artist coming to terms with his own mortality and finding himself all the better for it. (www.jackpenate.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10
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