The Devil and a Penny - repair
I remember watching “The Fearless Freaks,” a documentary about the story of Flaming Lips. There is a part where they talk about one their members, Ronald Jones, quitting the band. It was devastating to them and they didn’t know how to function without him at first but then later went on to make one of the most prolific albums of all time; The Soft Bulletin. The Devil and a Penny had a similar experience, except they had two members leave the band. Despite the adversity they worked on and eventually finished Repair, which is a six-song EP that melds melancholy and beauty not unlike that of the band Sparklehorse. The recordings are a bit rough at times and take away from the music but the songwriting shines through despite this. My favorite part about this album was the vocal work. Everything from the vocal delivery, to the lyrics and vocal melody are finely tuned components that draw you in. The vocals seep with a whimsical childlike, often fragile quality. Don't get me wrong. The music is pretty solid too. Sweet guitar melodies abound as they usually create a nice bed for the soft-spoken lyrics to rest upon.
The first song “New Song #1” starts with just guitar and vocals, which I would have been fine with for the entire song. In fact I felt like the additional instruments were nice but muddied up the song a bit. That being said the song is gorgeously implemented and provides enough solace among the melancholy to make you not want to dig your own grave. “Mining Your Own” is immediately pleasing to the ear as the melodies are catchy enough to recognize after a second listen. In addition to some delicate guitar work the song is driven with simplistic yet effective drumming.
The first things you hear are sad monolithic drones on “Peter Black.” They aren't welcome very long as this instrumental piece trades in the drones for a couple of clean electric guitars and a drum set. I liked the instrumental piece but the highlight on the album for me was “Make Myself Scarce.” The song, like the others before it, contained a lot of melancholy but this song also had a cathartic element to it as well. I was also digging the experimental guitar work towards the end of the song. The album closes with “Get at the Moose Edge” which feels like the busiest of songs. At around the two-minute mark a number of guitars rest upon a slab of white noise.
Of the six songs on Repair I have to say there wasn't one that I didn't enjoy. The only thing that bogged down the album was the poor production at times that affected the songs adversely when there were a lot of instruments at the same time. Other than that, the songwriting and lyrics are original and I feel like The Devil and a Penny are just getting starting. I'm hoping to hear more from them soon.
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