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Jack Peñate: Everything Is New (XL) 

It's hard to ignore how much the ultra-British lilt in Jack Peñate's vocal delivery recalls Robert Smith. He has that same taffy-mouthed roundness to his vowels, and title track "Everything Is New" features bass-heavy verses with bedroom vocals that could have come right off the Cure's seminal 1986 compilation album, Standing on a Beach.

Which, I suppose, is to say that everything actually isn't new on Peñate's sophomore effort. The sound here is very similar to that of mid-to-late-1980s post-new-wave alt-pop bands like the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, and XTC. "So Near," "Give Yourself Away" and "Be the One" (which fuses in a neo-soul horn section and backing vocals) are the brightest examples on the album, and are worth the purchase price alone.

Perhaps the title is intended more to reflect the reinvention of his own sound, as Everything Is New is really different from his much-cheesier first album, Matinee, which at times bordered on Dave Matthews Band territory.

Thank god he's gone a different direction here, because the results are wonderful: The tinny bass grooves and snappy drums give the record a solid bottom throughout, from "Let's All Die" to the world-beat percussion on the anthemic "Tonight's Today."

On "Body Down," the album's closer, Peñate sings, "He's gonna take you in the end / So you might as well become his friend." That's a fitting sentiment with which to address his audience. By this album's end, you're bound to be won over.

More by Sean Bottai

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