Penelope Isles: Which Way to Happy (Bella Union) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Penelope Isles

Which Way to Happy

Bella Union

Nov 05, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Listening to Penelope Isles’ second album Which Way to Happy, you won’t get any sense of the bumpy ride that led to its creation, because it feels like such a seamless transition from their acclaimed debut, 2019’s Until the Tide Creeps In. Penelope Isles, who revolve around the creative nucleus of siblings Jack and Lily Wolter, decamped with the rest of the band to a small cottage in Cornwall, UK to start work on album two. However, things got messy as Jack revealed in a press release announcing the album: “We were there for about two or three months. It was a tiny cottage with four of us in and we all went a bit bonkers, and we drank far too much, and it spiralled a bit out of control.”

Along the way, band members were lost and gained, but what did transpire from those emotionally charged sessions was to form the basis of a beautifully compelling second album. It was produced by Jack Wolter and mixed by the U.S. producer and Mercury Rev founding member Dave Fridmann, who helped the band add a new dimension to their already expansive cinematic leanings.

There’s much to admire here: beauty, fragility, a dash of blissed-out space rock, dream pop, even a hint of French disco amidst the soaring widescreen soundscapes as Penelope Isles dip in and out of genres yet never sound constrained by any of them. In an industry that seems to facilitate and reward the generic, Penelope Isles have fashioned their own unique realm. Highlights include the wistful and ethereal “Iced Gems,” which leans towards electronic pop, and the soaring shimmer of “Miss Moon,” which is one of the album’s numerous peaks. They are also joined by English composer, orchestral arranger, and violinist Fiona Brice, whose stirring string arrangements majestically lend an additional layer of beauty and drama to tracks such as the forlorn “11 11” and previously released single “Sailing Still.” It’s an album that demonstrates that following your artistic instincts rather than what’s “on trend” can lead to work that is much more rewarding, powerful, and enduring. (

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