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PENFRIEND - Exotic Monsters LP

My Big Sister

PENFRIEND - Exotic Monsters LP

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Laura Kidd is a music producer, songwriter and digital polymath based in Bristol, UK. From 2010 to 2019 Laura created her own audiovisual world under the moniker She Makes War. Since then, Laura has been making music as Penfriend.

The debut Penfriend record builds on Kidd's accomplished ear for melody and ambitious production style, marrying disparate influences from Tanya Donelly, Juliana Hatfield and Nevermind-era Nirvana to the gritty tension of Nine Inch Nails and Puscifer and synth soundscapes of Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears and Sylvan Esso.

"Sparse and eerie electro with more than a hint of Vince Clarke about it, the superb 'I Used To Know Everything' has a chorus which surprises with its stabs of grungy guitar. At the same time, the dreamlike 'Dispensible Body' radiates upwards beautifully, in a manner that gives the song and surrounding album plenty of room to breathe. Brought to life with a balance of soft electronics and refreshing, palette-cleansing organic sounds, 'Seashaken' is another gentle delight that yearns for escape from the madness and despair of the 21st century, providing a wondrous centrepiece. Again, lyrics far beyond surface-level stuff are a distinguishing feature in Penfriend songs.

Off-kilter keys fall in all the right places across a backdrop of irresistible beats and the record's finest chorus during the excellent 'Loving Echoes', while the defiant surge of 'I'll Start A Fire' steers the album's second half slightly closer to the vibrant alt-rock of previous days, proving that those Nirvana and Pixies influences from the She Makes War years will never quite disappear altogether from Kidd's musical range. 'Cancel Your Hopes' is very much a fitting soundtrack to the chaos and devastation of recent times and certainly a terrific racket that conjures up the image of desperately trying to grip onto a world that is spinning wildly out of control. While punky guitar hooks thrash out an intense dissonance, it's not just the keys but the very necessary touch of swearing that provides its most essential and defining features.

Following the ghostly late-era Blur atmospherics of 'Long Shadows' and the heavenly chorus of voices on the gorgeous 'Out Of The Blue', the closing 'Black Car' takes a good hard look at finding the strength to deal with isolation, the knock-on effects, the resulting feelings, as well as how others are treating the larger scale situation." -

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