If everything is new, what of substance is there to be found? Does renewal for the sake of renewal possess any value? What has been lost and what will we miss? Jack PeÃ±ate sets out for an audacious audio adventure which leaves the listener more confused than enlightened.
Being penned as the colic child of Britain’s new wave of young pop writing talent siblinghood when his debut album Matinée was released in 2006, he has since, a bit ironically, with a frantic energy tried to shake off the role of the indie equivalent to Mika. His new album, Everything Is New was released to the US mid-August and it’s a chance for him to prove beyond the Atlantic, too, that the less you squirm in the hand that pigeonholes you, the easier you slip out of it. Relax, take it easy.
What has really happened is that PeÃ±ate has been forcefully pulled out of his colourful, joyfully melodic indie rockabilly-pop comfort zone, although it must be said: on his own responsibility. The charming brainchild got matched up together with producer Paul Epworth — a noteworthy, strategically correct, and smart move. Followers of the guitar-based UK indie scene know that Epworth’s epic pop agenda is to be acknowledged for the indie/mainstream crossover success of both Bloc Party and Friendly Fires.
It’d be easy to praise Epworth for his pop innovation-tradition clash that once again have spawned something truly worthy of a listen in an age where pop music, even in indie, can be conforming. The only risk here is that we’ll in the future will be able to trace the lines Epworth-produced albums in a converging net ending in a bold dot in which his style has become its own little private universe. Once again we’d be stuck somewhere.
Until then, Everything Is New‘s instrumental vividness and wispy, dreamy production filter make for one of the most lasting and enjoyable pop album listens of the year so far. Yet, none of this would’ve been even remotely possible if it weren’t for the main artists visions and ambitions. PeÃ±ate reinvention of himself as an singer/songwriter stands as a model for tastefully seamless maturing on a musical, and, I’ll be damned if not also, personal level. This is an album where the young tousle-haired popster reaches an emotional climax which sends a burst of energy forcing him against the mirror to stare behind the blue-eyed boyish charm.
The songwriting skills, the passion, the energy, and joy of playing music was already there on Matinée. Everything Is New encompasses these great qualities, pairing them up with insight, elegant restraint, contemplation, and beauty to form a picture of an artist in a subtler shade of grey. Not necessarily as fun or immediately catchy, but all the more real, grown-up, and emotionally evocative. PeÃ±ate transcends himself as a songwriter song after song.
He describes it best himself on the album’s absolute highlight “So Near”: “I’m so near!”. A new artist, a new perspective, a new confidence, a new album. One bright future. Close to perfection. I’m confused. How did this happen?
Everything Is New