Penelope Isles - Which Way To Happy
Dreamy and super-smart second LP from the brother and sister lead Penelope Isles.
+ Signed Indie Clear Vinyl Editions available!
When you’re trying to make it through tough times, you need a little light to find your way. That light blazes brightly on the alchemical second album from Penelope Isles, an album forged amid emotional upheaval and band changes. Setting the uncertainties of twentysomething life to alt-rock and psychedelic songs brimming with life, colour and feeling, Which Way to Happy emerges as a luminous victory for Jack and Lily Wolter, the siblings whose bond holds the band tight at its core.
Produced by Jack and mixed by US alt-rock legend Dave Fridmann, the result is an intoxicating leap forward for the Brighton-based band, following the calling-card DIY smarts of their 2019 debut, Until the Tide Creeps In. Sometimes it swoons, sometimes it soars. Sometimes it says it’s OK to not be OK. And sometimes it says it’s OK to look for the way to happy, too. Pitched between fertile coastal metaphors and winged melodies, intimate confessionals and expansive cosmic pop, deep sorrows and serene soul-pop pick-you-ups, it transforms “difficult second album” clichés into a thing of glorious contrasts: a second-album surge of up-close, heartfelt intimacies and expansive, experimental vision.
At different point along the way, Jack Sowton and Becky Redford left the Isles. An old friend, multi-instrumentalist Henry Nicholson, stepped in swiftly – “A godsend after a low time,” says Lily. Another friend, Hannah Feenstra, contributed drum parts; now, Joe Taylor is the band’s drummer. After Cornwall, the band redid many of the rhythm tracks, recorded a little in Brighton, then recorded more in Cornwall at their parents’ house. “It was,” says Jack, “a proper rollercoaster ride.”
The ride continued with Fridmann, whose recent credits include Isles’ favourites Mogwai’s No 1 album, As the Love Continues. As Lily puts it, the process of sending Fridmann a mix, receiving it back in the morning and then having five hours to make decisions on it resulted first in stress, then in something sublime. “I love everything he’s touched – MGMT, Mogwai, Mercury Rev. He would turn our mix into this electric, fiery thing. There were some moments that were initially hard, like on ‘Miss Moon,’ where he took out the bass when it gets to the chorus. But now it’s my favourite bit on the record. He made everything so colourful. It’s an intense-sounding record – a hot record. It was so refreshing to have that blast of energy from Dave – it’s like he framed our pictures.”
“There’s so much love between me and Jack, we couldn’t do it without each other,” says Lily. “And even in that chaotic, tiny bubble of a cottage that sent us all mad, we had some really funny, stupid, lovely times together. There’s a lot of emotion in the album.” Wherever Penelope Isles go from here, that guiding emotional compass couldn’t be more finely attuned.
The standard LP is pressed on 180g clear vinyl and includes an A4 print.
(Please note that the clear vinyl version has a hype sticker on the front saying that it's on white vinyl, this is incorrect and a mistake in production, sadly. All LPs are on clear vinyl.)
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