Top tier rock anthems from someone who dares to hope but is prepared for the worst.
‘Exotic Creatures’ may be the debut album from Penfriend but Laura Kidd has been creating music for years. Previously known as ‘She Makes War’, Laura created four excellent guitar ripping albums before deciding to shift gears slightly with her new guise Penfriend. Stylistically, it isn’t a huge shift but it continues to show just how great at off-kilter melodies Kidd is.
Part of what makes the album fantastic is that many of the songs take slightly stumbled time signature. In single ‘Seventeen’ it skips a beat to keep things on their toes as the guitars chug whilst ‘Hell Together’ makes sure a stumble half step is included in sections whilst the motifs switch and change. Another way Penfriend brings darker and less obvious tricks to her songwriting is through throwing in an unusual minor chord or very specific note dissonance during riffs. Sometimes it is used to elevate tension or elsewhere it’s to spin a riff off its axis a little. Each time the switch is clever and keeps your ear interested. later, you’ll realise on the third listen you’ve been humming the theme or doing a step shuffle to the beat switch. Ah yes, you’ve been sucked in too.
The main obvious change up is the introduction of some synth work into the sound mix. The fantastic ‘I Used To Know Everything’ is the best example of this. Slow-motion pulsating bass lines throb over drum machines and then join Laura’s vocals for the chorus alongside funky finger bent guitar melodies. Less obvious perhaps is that instead of wanting to instigate anarchy, often the viewpoint from Laura’s previous artistic standpoint, this time we have that energy channelled outwardly. Yes, she may be starting fires in ‘I’ll Start A Fire’ but it’s fighting fire with fire and pushing back. There are also a few songs that sing of hope and optimism too. The aural and stately beauty of ‘Out of the Blue’ brings in a moment of calm. In stark contrast to the earlier ballad ‘Dispensable Body’ which gives into the world’s fears, this one is about worldly delights. The album also closes on ‘Black Car’ which is a signal for all to pack your bags for the shitstorm as we need the energy in battle. Don’t worry though, if you aren’t feeling that Penfriend still has you covered with the grungy seaside rock of ‘Cancel Your Hopes’.
You can hear moments of Nirvana, Throwing Muses and a few other 90’s rock bands hidden in the mix but Penfriend is definitely her own artist. She writes killer riffs and melodies and then pops a quickstep beat switch to them that keeps you buzzing. In many ways, Penfriend is a great name for an artist who has plenty to say. Many of the tracks here feel like moments of expressive feeling and moments of clarity or change. It feels like a personal documentation of the last 18 months and most of all, it kicks ass. Whatever guise Laura Kidd performs as she continues to provide us with top-class rock. Grab it now.
Recommended track: Seventeen
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