We love pop music at PressPLAY, especially high-end sparkly pop. It is incredible that the wider world still buys derivative pap like Katy Perry when pop contains inspirational acts like Penguin Prison. If Taylor Swift is queen, Penguin Prison are the third cousins, once removed, of contemporary pop.
There’s no archness or posture on Lost in New York (named not after Home Alone 2 but the birthplace of Chris Glover, the man behind Penguin Prison) but just sheer fun. Calling Out in particular is euphoric and great as a pick-me-up; you’ll sing the chorus even before you’ve heard it, which isn’t physically possible in 99.99% of pop.
The album takes its place on the shelf of Great Pop+Synth Albums along with Phoenix, Foster the People and A-Trak. There is a lot of bounce to the ounce and lots of major-chord madness. The melodies are catchy, the synths bob and weave and the production is slick as you like.
Glover layers harmonies and hooks on top of one another, like lasagne with quavers (the musical kind). On Show Me the Way he brings out Nile Rodgers-inspired guitar lines and geeky vocal stylings of Rivers Cuomo or Ezra Koenig. Caught in a Daze can’t decide whether to be Africa by Toto or Valerie by Steve Winwood, and ends up ruminating sweetly on how “we could start again…”.
The second half begins with a song about endings with the title, er, Don’t Tell Me How it Ends. Here Glover stays in a thoughtful mood over rippling electric guitars and another sublime chorus with some glockenspiel chattering silently. Later on, Laughing at the Floor really showcases his knowledge of instrumentation and pop orchestration, or a Heston Blumenthal approach to crafting pop: a sprinkleof s ynth, dollops of guitar and some snail porridge in the form of elegiac piano near the end. It’s too good to hear just once, and by the third time maybe you’ll start to listen to the words.
By the time In The Woods (parallels to TayTay’s Out Of The Woods TBC) comes to close the album, you’ll put the whole thing on again. Excellently mixed, with beats and mini-breakdowns to mimic the rush of a club, Penguin Prison deserve mass exposure in a fair and just world.
Lost In New York by Penguin Prison can be ordered here.