In their 17 years as a band, New York indie veterans Blonde Redhead’s unique and mesmerizing sound has taken on a number of permutations. Their eighth full-length album, Penny Sparkle—the culmination of a musical evolution which began with the gritty art-rock of their 1995 self-titled debut—is testament to the trio’s protean nature. Lacking the indie rock edge of Misery is a Butterfly and 23, Penny Sparkle’s mellowed out and melancholy electro-pop is a positive maturation for the trio. Lead singer Kazu Makino and twin brothers Simone and Amadeo Pace have evolved from loud and rough around the edges to smooth trip-hop, and the result is arguably their best album.
Penny Sparkle is an album to listen to from start to finish without interruption. Transitioning seamlessly from one downhearted love song to the next, the album is cohesive, but each track stands alone as a unique achievement. “Here Sometimes,” the intro track, lures its listeners into a dark dream world with Makio’s wistful crooning: “I’m only here sometimes / Under the tree of life.” The trance-y “Will There Be Stars” is a highlight of the album, along with the hauntingly beautiful “My Plants are Dead.” The breathy vocals and lo-fi ambience of “Love or Prison” showcase the best of the trio’s matured sound. The album’s sole flaw is that it ends too soon after just 10 tracks, with “Spain” leaving its listeners reluctant to leave the darkly alluring sonic world that Makino and the Pace brothers have created.