Pop-punk bands are a dime a dozen, to borrow a phrase from my American friends, but ever since hearing New York’s Pentimento earlier this year, it was clear that there’s still life in the genre. Choosing to position themselves away from the uptempo, optimistic pop-punk which dominates the airwaves, Pentimento take a huge influence from Brand New and use it to create a mid-tempo, somewhat downbeat, yet still inspiring and heartfelt record, ending up with one of the finest pop-punk records you’ll hear this side of The Wonder Years.
Opening with the heavy riffs and percussion of Unless, the guys show off everything that makes up their sound: a huge chorus, personal lyrics and an emotive vocal delivery made up of a combination of lead vocals and background screams, which compliment each other perfectly. If the chorus and main riff of second track Circles don’t stick in your head for days, then you’re listening to this album wrong, whilst the end of song breakdown with duelling vocals and guitar lines shows their technical proficiency. Considering this is their debut album, it’s clear they’ve taken their time crafting the songs and haven’t rushed into putting out a record, something which benefits this self-titled effort a huge amount.
The duel vocals are by far one of the strongest parts of this album, especially considering there is no hint of autotuning or digital manipulation. Neither singer has a perfect voice by any means, but this adds a raw edge to their sound which enhances the punk half of the pop-punk equation greatly. They find a way to incorporate this into most of the songs on the album, but it never feels forced, a key reason why it is one of Pentimento’s real strengths. This sense of striking a natural balance between vocalists is something which is also found in the instrumentation, with the band easily transitioning between slow verses with a heavy emphasis on the vocals to huge breakdowns with double speed riffs and atmospheric guitar lines simmering in the background. Even though the average length of each song is around three minutes, there is plenty of replay value to be found here. You will find a new aspect to the album on each listen, whether it’s an unheard guitar lick or bassline or a specific lyric you haven’t picked up on that really speaks to you, giving the record a surprising amount of depth.
Only one of the tracks on the album has been released before, The Bridge (on their split EP with Young English earlier this year), but by re-recording it in an acoustic form, Pentimento have breathed new life into it, providing a welcome change of pace to the overall feel of the album. As an individual track, it would have to be included in the very best that the band has to offer, with the acoustic vibe making the build up to the final refrain of ‘all we are is blood and bones, and sometimes a soul’ all the more powerful.
An argument could probably be made that the album has a tendency to sound similar in places, something which personally I couldn’t really deny, but by no means let this put you off, because Pentimento are a band who play to their strengths, and have undoubtedly found ‘their sound’ extremely early on in their career, something which many bands spend multiple albums trying to do. If anything, this should be met with excitement, because if their first album is this good, imagine what they can do on their second and third efforts. They even manage to avoid the pitfalls of falling off towards the end of the album, with pseudo-ballad Subtle Words (complete with string orchestration) tugging at the heartstrings, before flowing into the final coupling of For Winter and On Summer, the latter of which ends the album with one final punchy and emotional breakdown.
In case you needed any more reason to check these guys out, they’re putting the album up for free download on their website because of label disputes, with the option to donate anything you wish towards covering their costs. I urge you to listen to this album, because 2013 is gonna bring enormous things for Pentimento, and you don’t want to be left behind.
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