"...if you're frightened of dying and... you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth."
Penfold - Amateur Standing (cites Meister Eckhart, voice sample from Jacob's Ladder film)
Sadness is one of the easiest feelings to portray through music. A minor key, a slow tempo and a sad vocal melody and you're done. But doing it convincingly and well is another story. Whilst not ever daring to breach the walls of indie/emo, Penfold's Amateurs and Professionals constantly generates a solemnly pretty and emotionally grating atmosphere, and although they may be following the footsteps of their counterparts, they are sure to cement their own flavour in along the way.
Their 'flavour' being one that flickers between sweet guitar melodies and loud, raucous sections but is always carried by voice. It's understandable how some may find the vocalist's timbre a little repetitive, perhaps whiny at times, however we've all heard people say that about Jeremy Enigk. Vocal melodies are the real driving force behind the songs for the majority – the other instrumentation merely providing a backdrop for the singing that sometimes seem to shimmer ever so slightly out of tune, but to positive effect. The clean and crisp production of it all is a necessity because of this, allowing the typical indie-band instrumentation to come to life even in the musically simpler sections.
The potential highlight of the EP, "I'll Take You Everywhere", follows a similar descriptive tale, with the guitarists providing a canvas of delicate arpeggios whilst the vocalist paints the track with his sombre melodies. Comparisons with art would not be too inaccurate actually; however subjective 'art' may be, most can agree that art is about expression. The well crafted climax of this song complete with its tasteful gradual tempo increase and dominant vocal shouts will ensure you that Penfold definitely express.
Not only do they work their magic of empathy at a low gear, they are also fully capable of packing forceful energy and musical skill into their songs for added feeling. It's not uncommon for music to lose some of its emotion when the band is clearly hiding behind simple dynamic changes and a wall of distortion, however Penfold utilise their sense of loud instrumentation sparingly, to good effect. Such a moment reveals itself in the intense "Traveling Theory" [SIC], where they accompany the loudness with evolving drums, pleasant yet strong chord progressions, and multiple, overlapping vocals.
This won't be the most original thing you've ever heard, and nor will it be the most heart-wrenching, but it's an inspired release of feeling and mood. Like the EP title suggests, some parts are amateur, and others professional. But Penfold are definitely qualified sorrow-stirrers. Amateurs and Professionals is just another album to coincide with your rainy day.
"This space starts out empty, and I know it can't hurt more than it already does, it falls around and hits me in the face and falls onto the ground".
And so begins the undeniably emo lyrics to this record, and if I was to describe the things i feel while listening to this album, this is how I would do it. From the moment it began i was lost inside the beauty of it, for it dragged me motionless and senseless around for the thrity plus minutes of it's existence in a way that no record has done for such a tragically long time. And the reason I am sounding like a cliched emo lyricist is simple, I am merely preparing you for the lyrics of the album.
However unoriginal the lyrics or sound may be for an emo record, i could not deny the brilliance of it. Think Mineral with a bit more power and speed, and a lot less whining, and you have Penfold. It begins with the slowest, prettiest song, June (I think with my collection of emo records, i have a song named after every month of the year) to some of the more hardcore-y songs like tuesday (i think with my collection of emo records, I have a song named after every day of the week) this record shows perfect balance and with seven songs, doesn't overstay it's welcome like many a album i have bought recently does. However unoriginal this album may be, I still love it, and I don't care what you think. Now I think I shall go and write some poetry.Dan Baker