There are so many musical acts out there insistent on making some sort of unnecessarily large sweeping statement. Lyrics coated in a nice bubbling layer of metaphoric sentimentality or foregone anger and tenacity for the terrible future and the troubled past. The music is demanding, and spurs an often emotional roller coaster for any vulnerable listener.
For better or worse, Walking For Pennies are harmless and saccharine sweet. With every vocal hook, saxophone arrangement, or tight bouncy drum jangle, Walking For Pennies debut album ‘Forget About Wonderland’ is tightly constructed, perfectly arranged, and sugary pop that initially demands little but gives so much.
This doesn’t mean the group tackles innocuous topics. The theme here is seemingly about being realistic while also reaching for the stars, a tender balance that battles anyone with even a modicum of aspirations and hopes.
The group comprises Andy Jobe andNeeleyBridges-a male/female twosome that perfectly compliments each other’s obvious strong musical backgrounds.
The songs on the debut are often brilliant. The title track is an absolute superb testament to the band’s skill. It soars and bounces along as if from a track on ‘Songs in the Key of Life.’ (Stevie Wonder’s magnum opus). It’s a wondrous display of the group’s talent. ‘Nashville’ opens itself as a typical singer-songwriter country ballad, but manages to be something so much more. The instrumentation is thick in what sounds like an exploration of multiple sounds, making for, almost inarguably, the best song on the album.
‘I Know Better’ is Walking For Pennies attempt at traditional country-pop. It’s fun and silly, but lacks some of the substance the band explored in later songs on the album. ‘Black Picket Fences’ is a dark somber track. It’s a brooding and climactic romp, using layered strings and tight drumming with great aplomb.
It may be hard to explain or decipher, but the group seem tightly composed and collaborative, sharing the demanding task of recording between the two of them evenly. There is a definitive masculinity riding the songs, but it’s enlightened by a softness and quaintness, which plays on the dynamic of male and female of the duo. Ignoring gender lines and what is what, the simple fact is the collaboration comes out seemingly strong, bringing forward a nice complimenting touch from each member.
This tight collaborative feeling likely arises from the fact that the two trade vocals almost every single song. This is probably the greatest aspect of the band’s sound. On one hand, you can’t pinpoint an identifiable front man or front woman. This can be a fault (Imagine Aerosmith or the Rolling Stones if Tyler and Jagger were sidelined half the time for one of the other members). Yet, the dynamic is eventful and allows both members to offer a certain “take” on every song. It’s a sensational daring move I wish more groups would explore without relying on the clichés (female sings hook, male sings verse sort of tedium).
Walking For Pennies is a professional group who obviously have excellent chemistry and top-tier song crafting ability. The songs soar when appropriate, and sizzle when needed. ‘Forget About Wonderland’ is rife with pop hooks and tender balance, and though it may not be a deep metaphorical stand for or against anything, it is smarter than you would initially think. Dream real. Dream forever. Walking For Pennies have, without the goal of being huge, but being honest and touching- and hoping people connect from here.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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