An Album a Day: Penguin Prison

April 13, Penguin Prison by Penguin Prison

Genre: That ’80s synthpop stuff that was not actually made in the ’80s
Year: 2011
Runtime: 46:17
Total tracks: 11
Songs you might know:
– “Don’t Fuck With My Money”
– “Golden Train”
– “Something I’m Not”
– “The Worse It Gets”
– “Fair Warning”

My prior relationship with this album: I was first introduced to this album on a mini road trip where I was not in control of the music. I liked what I heard, Shazammed, and learned it was this album. I definitely listened to a fair amount of this afterwards, though I’m still not 100% sure if I ever made time for the full album. Oh, and I’m somewhat confident some of these songs were on the playlist at the store where I used to work, though I didn’t put that together until this listen.

My impressions this time around: Penguin Prison is a beautiful execution of that ’80s inspired pop trend that didn’t really go mainstream until later in the 2010s, but is pretty hot right now. The first track, “Don’t Fuck With My Money” does a great job of getting me excited to listen to the rest of the album.

Virtually every song on here does exactly what a pop song is supposed to do. It’s catchy. It’s fun to listen to. It’s something you could dance to, or if you’re driving, bob your head rhythmically. And the vocals are decent, even though the production is interesting enough that they could’ve gotten away with medicore vocals. All of this is done without sounding like the same-old, same-old pop music you’d hear on the radio.

One thing I will say about Penguin Prison is that this is one where you can figure out within the first song or two whether or not you can jive with the whole album. Either you like synthpop with just right the touch of ’80s video arcade vibes, or you don’t. Either way there’s a crystal clear artistic vision happening here. Nothing is disjointed or accidental. This was music made by someone who wanted to make THAT music. There’s no real surprises among the later tracks, except MAYBE “Someone Has Everything” but even that’s pretty similar to the other songs, just with a slower tempo. Part of me does wish that the album threw me some curveballs here and there, but I also understand the necessity of sticking to a sound and establishing a brand, especially on a debut album such as this one.

One thing I will say is that despite listening to this several times over the last week or so, many of the tracks in the middle kind of muddy together. Every time I’ve listened to it, I’ve had a good time listening. I’ve rushed to go back to it quicker than many other of the 100+ albums I’ve listened to so far this year. And yet, I can’t shake the feeling that if you ask me to name my favorite songs a month from now, I’m not going to be able to come up with much beyond “Don’t Fuck With My Money.” It’s an album full of solid songs where I don’t feel an urge to skip anything, yet relatively few standout songs I play on repeat for days on end.

Who would enjoy it? People who want pop music they can dance to who are trying to avoid Chainsmokers/Calvin Harris/Zedd “dancepop.”

One thought on “An Album a Day: Penguin Prison

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