Five minutes into Priceless Concrete Echoes I was feeling their music. There was a soothing familiarity to it, like hearing the sounds of our generations past incorporated into the present, and the future. The new waved sonics of “Stuck in Lalaland”; the album’s introduction, sounds something like Simple Minds and early South wrapped in the soaring transients of The Morning After Girls. It’s well executed incremental future-pop, and sounds so effortless and relaxed while it picks you up.
The Depeche Mode-like harmonics (the soaring vocals) and Yaz-styled beats and keyboards on “Licked By Love” make it the perfect sweet 16 track for 2009. I remember one of my sisters favorites at hers (yes, it sounds freaking silly, but she turned me onto some great music back then) was “Don’t Go” by Yaz, so naturally my mind went there upon hearing it. The dreamy tonality of the vocals in “Circle of Seasons” is a seeming tribute to New Order’s immortal “Temptation”. This is a song to play on the way to your after-party, like the aptly titled “Afterhours” by We Are Scientists. Yes; I was a sucker for Nick&Norah’s Infinite Playlist, especially after my friends back in New York called to tell me to go see it. It only made me miss it (because we used to go to all the places in the film, hence the phone call).
Anyway, enough rambling, and pardon all of the metaphoric, goopy comparisons. The music is just that familiar, but manages to sound completely modern. It’s almost difficult to describe. If you were discovering new wave back in the mid to late eighties (the days of the famed WLIR radio out on Long Island – where we discovered everybody from the Smiths to The Cure, to Erasure) you will understand the moment you hear Priceless Concrete Echoes. “Saved” would have been right at home on the Trainspotting soundtrack had it existed at the time. They did a great job putting a dark and twisted stamp on their cover of the Beasties “Sabotage.” Covering the Beastie’s is no easy task, but they chose to truly own their version. It works remarkably well, and got great responses during a poker game last week. Everybody was asking “who the hell is this with this sick cover”. Sometimes that is the best way to gauge whether you’re just gaga over the record because of your own connections to it, or if it’s actually any good (and yes, it all remains subjective).
The hard-hitting, acid-clash basslines and wavy crescendos of “Long Black Fly” make it a straight floor rocker, and I am anxious to see if there are any hot remixes floating around. I see a dope Mr. C remix happening there (well, I literally don’t right now, but who knows)! “Concrete” is anything but stiff; with its radiating vocals, dynamic slaps and claps, and a poppy mantra chorus. It’s simply infectious. The keys and Lynn Drum-like beats on “Your Plan for Happiness”; the albums closer, are classic Pet Shop Boys.
All in all, the music is splendid throughout Priceless Concrete Echoes. The only drawback are the occasional flat notes. It is not their fault of course, and this is not a shot at their skills by any means. Had a band like this been able to work with a truly seasoned, and musically gifted producer (like Frank Filipetti or Phil Ramone) this would have been fixed with ease, and not by auto-tune or pitch shifting. A great producer can get the best performance out of the artist, by guiding them through and beyond their own capabilities. This small observation is not intended however to tear away the magic that the Penelope[s] managed to create on their recent effort. This album will be humming in my ipod for quite a while. It’s also perfect road-trip music! Check it out, get up from that seat and monitor, and go be out in the world. Priceless Concrete Echoes makes me want to dial up an old friend and journey, journey to some place exciting and safe.