The Well Pennies, ‘Endlings’ – Album Review
In today's crowded musical climate, it takes a lot to cut through the clutter and rise above the digital din -- so give the Well Pennies credit for not even bothering to try.
This is not to say that the folk-pop duo's debut full-length, 'Endlings,' reflects a lack of effort; in fact, this is an exquisitely crafted album, replete with deceptively thoughtful arrangements that surround their soaring harmonies with shimmering guitars and lush strings while leaving plenty of room for the songs to breathe. But it's also a confidently quiet work that asks for room to reflect rather than demanding the spotlight, and in these years of lossy formats and loudness wars, that's nothing less than refreshing.
It helps that the songs are good, too. If you've heard 'Drive,' the leadoff single from 'Endlings,' you've got the map to the Well Pennies' musical DNA: breezy hooks, acoustic instrumentation, and loads of sweet, sunny harmonies. Needless to say, if it's abrasive noise or darkness you seek, this isn't the band for you -- 'Endlings' comfortably occupies a spot on the map near the Weepies and Ingrid Michaelson.
But while their sound is sweet, it stops short of saccharine; throughout much of 'Endlings,' the Well Pennies tinge their tracks with a hopeful sort of melancholy that's wholly appropriate for a duo who takes their name from a Tom Waits lyric ("My legs ache / My heart is sore / The well is full of pennies" --'The Fall of Troy'). When they indulge in it deeply, as on 'Kill the Darlings,' it's hard not to miss the warmth of the uptempo tracks, but it's also precisely that musical dynamic that makes the album an emotional journey instead of a non-stop barrage of sunshine and smiles.
All in all, 'Endlings' is easy listening in the best sense of the term: the kind of record that soothes while you're driving or otherwise occupied, but also reveals subtler, quieter depths if it's given one-on-one attention. The title was inspired by a famous photo of the last known Tasmanian tiger, and serves as a reminder of precious things lost to time and carelessness -- something that probably hits close to home for a couple of artists with so much evident fondness for old-fashioned simplicity.
With any luck, this album will only be the first chapter of many for the Well Pennies. In the meantime, it makes for an impressive debut, and one of the more effortlessly rewarding albums of this (very) young year.