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CD Review: Blonde Redhead – Penny Sparkle

Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle
4AD

Blonde Redhead abandoned the abrasiveness that defined their early material on 2004’s Misery is a Butterfly, and they’ve only been getting dreamier ever since. Their latest record – Penny Sparkle – finds the trio of Kazu Makino and twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace taking their band’s shoegazer sound in more electronic directions.

Blonde Redhead has been called everything from a Sonic Youth rip-off act to indie pop’s answer to Cocteau Twins. With this record, the band has developed their evocative dream pop even further by experimenting with synthesizers in a style that is reminiscent of electronic pioneers like New Order, Kraftwerk, and Giorgio Moroder.

As a result, Songs such as “Love or Prison” and “Here Sometimes” have an atmosphere that is equal parts dub electronica and Gothic dream pop. Very few of Penny Sparkle’s songs approach the heartbreaking depth of “The Dress,” from their previous record, 23, but the title track is one of the most subtle and stunning works that Blonde Redhead has written in years.

Unfairly, Penny Sparkle is bound to be Blonde Redhead’s most divisive album. The band has almost entirely traded in their guitars for an elaborate set of synthesizers—a decision that is likely to alienate fans of the group’s early Touch and Go material.

In truth, Penny Sparkle’s ten songs feature the same breathy atmosphere, romantic lyrics, and haunting melodies that the band’s previous albums had. Blonde Redhead have long preferred atmosphere over any adherence to a strict set of instruments, and Penny Sparkle proves that this trio is open to the grand possibilities of change.

Christian Hardy
A&C Editor

Featured tracks

Love or Prison

Here Sometimes

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