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Penny Sparkle


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Amazon's Blonde Redhead Store

Music

Image of album by Blonde Redhead

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Biography

Blonde Redhead's last album – ‘Misery Is A Butterfly’ – established them once and for all as one of the most distinctive and precious bands of their generation. Although conceived and recorded during a time of trauma, the album was a confident, thrilling and delicately-nuanced sweep of sound which enraptured the already-converted and won the band a whole new legion ... Read more in Amazon's Blonde Redhead Store

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Frequently Bought Together

Penny Sparkle + Barragán + 23
Price For All Three: £26.55

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Product details

  • Audio CD (13 Sept. 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: 4AD
  • ASIN: B003UDBSVO
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,516 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Here Sometimes 4:43£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Not Getting There 2:46£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Will There Be Stars 4:27£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. My Plants Are Dead 4:17£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Love Or Prison 6:13£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Oslo 3:54£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Penny Sparkle 4:33£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Everything Is Wrong 2:49£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Black Guitar 5:19£0.99  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Spain 4:55£0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Description

BBC Review

Seventeen years. It’s an eternity. Countries have fallen and marriages have crumbled in less time, so it’s pretty remarkable that Blonde Redhead have not only survived this long but have continued to prosper, now releasing one of their finest works to date.

Penny Sparkle, their eighth official studio album, is a downbeat, glossed affair that largely dispenses with the busy guitar camouflage of past records in favour of glacially cool synth and Kazu Makino’s ice-maiden wail. They’re a band who’ve always possessed an understated beauty but where it might have seeped and soaked through previously, with the absence of the droning guitar dynamics heard on 2007’s 23, here it’s allowed to flourish.

The minimal plod of Will There Be Stars is an early indication of Penny Sparkle’s often bleak atmosphere – Kazu’s ethereal vocals are given a break – but perhaps more pertinently it also confirms a pointed move away from the powerful blankets of guitar that characterised earlier albums. The gentle heaving of My Plants Are Dead, as beautiful as it is, is wracked with whispering indecision – it feels ready and poised to explode into a track of the most grandiose splendour, but is ultimately allowed to ghost past.

While Blonde Redhead have always had the capability to be a band who lavishly build it up just to deconstruct, and we took delight in that once upon a time, Penny Sparkle’s restrained, almost tentative indulgence echoes a fresh sentiment that buys into the idea that the biggest statements don’t necessarily have to be the loudest.

Several albums in, the intent is very much on re-focusing and refining, and there’s a clandestine balance throughout this album. Synths buzz and murmur without over burdening Kazu’s vocal; the percussion is clean and crisp; and arrangements burn slowly instead of dazzling. It’s a rising sound that’s both bleak and terse. Always building and beautiful, their sparse, even minimal, approach lends Penny Sparkle a complexity that’s both rich and rewarding in both its inspiration and execution.

Seamless and polished, unhurried and regularly wonderful, Blonde Redhead are sparkling with a new-found black beauty.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Wolf TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Sept. 2010
Format: Audio CD
Blonde Redhead are singer Kazu Makino and twins Simone
and Amadeo Pace. They have been making music since 1993
and their new album 'Penny Sparkle' took me by surprise,
partly because I hadn't heard them before but mostly
because this is such a lovely recording.

Together this fine little trio demonstrate the more
gentle face of contemporary electro-pop. This has a
great deal to do with Ms Makino's fragile and very
pretty voice (not unlike that of Lali Puna's Valerie
Trebeljahr at times) which glides effortlessly through
the ten numbers in this creditable collection.

The formula is an uncomplicated but effective one.
Uncluttered rhythm tracks are decorated with layers
of diaphanous synth chords and occasional guitar
accents. The pace of the music is uniformly slow to
mid-paced and I cannot imagine that anyone came even
close to breaking a sweat during its creation.
('Not Getting There' is about as sprightly as things get!)

'Love Or Prison' is a particularly interesting invention.
Not unlike Berlin's splendid 1986 song 'Take My Breath Away',
it trundles along laconically on the back of a fruity synth
obligato with Ms Makino's voice floating above it like a ghost.

'Your Plants Are Dead', as its title might suggest, is a
marvelously maudlin affair. The melody, however, is one of the
strongest in the bunch and even though the somewhat wayward
guitar tuning is a tad distracting (perhaps it's meant to be
that way!) it still manages to be one of the album's highlights.

Title track 'Penny Sparkle' is a haunting composition.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R.Cooper on 4 Aug. 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a really amazing album. Don't recall any other band who after 18 years are still progressing and taking the listener to new planets. Thanks Glen Johnson for turning me onto them way back in 1995. Yes they were intense then & they are still intense. Every track here is breathtaking. One after one they grab your heart twist & turn it into little pieces. 'Here Sometimes', 'Not Getting There', 'Will There Be Stars', 'My Plants Are Dead', 'Love Or Prison', 'Oslo', 'Penny Sparkle', 'Everything Is Wrong', 'Black Guitar' & the exceedingly brilliant 'Spain'. Kazu with her fragile beautiful voice & via the melodic backing of Amedeo & Simone then the end result is simply astonishing. It is hard to understand all the lyrics but what I hear or grasp is breathtakingly inspirational but in any case you can find them beautifully presented with both the LP & CD artwork. Would say that over the last three years that this has been the album that have played the most & the vinyl version is simply sublime. When ever I feel down & out then this is the LP that I turn to, to lift my spirits.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Del Re on 12 Jun. 2011
Format: Audio CD
A well produced new album by the NYC trio, with some more beats than the previous album, and the distinctive voice of Kazu Makino along with the Pace brothers.
The 8th studio album is a nicely organized set of tracks, combining colorful tunes with darker ones in perfect harmony.
For fans the album is a must, specially in the Deluxe Edition, with plenty of design details to admire.
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By Paul M on 24 May 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I like it , but not nearly as much as the other 4 albums of theirs that I have, it seems more distant & less intense/ exciting
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 25 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Not their best, but still quite good 17 Sept. 2010
By Stefan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
While I agree with some of the criticism that's been aimed at Penny Sparkle, I also think that there's a lot to like about the album. I'm not going to slam it, but I'm also not calling it a modern classic. In a nutshell, I'd say it's a good album that's nowhere near as good as what they're capable of. Here's what I like and dislike about it:

On the plus side, this really makes a beautiful late-night chill-out album, balancing between dreaminess and melancholy, but leaning more towards the latter (where e.g. their previous album "23" is more dreamy). The production is excellent, with a lot of silence allowed to stay in the songs, giving the album a similar feel to e.g. The Cure's Seventeen Seconds and Thom Yorke's solo album, which both seem to play as much with the silence between the instruments as with the actual music. (And before people start howling: yes, I realize those two albums are very different from Penny Sparkle in other respects, and I'm not making value-judgments about them here - just pointing out a similar, spare, melancholy atmosphere - another one is "100th Window" by Massive Attack, now I think of it). The beats somehow sound at the same time crisp and muted, and Kazu's vocals are lovely as ever. There's also some really gorgeous synth textures floating around in the songs, and a lot of detail that only pops out after you've heard the songs a handful of times. This is one of those albums you'll enjoy more on a good set of headphones.

On the negative - well, unfortunately I feel that the songs, especially in the middle third of the album, at times start to blend into each other a bit too much. The first two tracks are excellent, and there are a few gems to be found later on, but it starts to sound a bit samey-samey as the album winds towards the end. I also miss the inventive drumming that could be found on some of their prior albums. In my opinion, Simone Pace is one of the most creative drummers of our time (although you really have to see him live to realize how amazing he really is), consistently coming up with original beats, but on Penny Sparkle, he unfortunately doesn't sound like himself.

In the end, I feel that Penny Sparkle is a nice album that's unfortunately not as good as the band's previous 3 releases - Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (2000), Misery is a Butterfly (2004) and 23 (2007). If you want to know what this band is REALLY capable of, go play the first song from each of those albums, which are all modern classics in my opinion (and just check out "In Particular" from "Lemons" or "Melody" from "Misery is a Butterfly" to see what I was talking about with this amazing drummer). "Penny Sparkle" isn't a bad album by any means, but it just doesn't reach those same heights at any point.

If you love Blonde Redhead, you probably own this album already, and you may feel like me - enjoying it but not really blown away, hoping that a few more listens will make it click for you. If you don't know this band yet, I'd grab one of the other 3 albums I mentioned first (and I bet you'll be back soon, eager for more!)
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Blonde Redhead + Van Rivers & the Subliminal Kid = One Amazing Album 31 Oct. 2010
By Jimmy Penola - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Album of the Year? Maybe. If not that, certainly the most beautiful. One thing I can say for sure is that Blonde Redhead's latest will undoubtedly make it into my 2010 list of favorites. First and foremost, I'm no authority on the band: I know they've been around for a while and have a ton of albums I have yet to listen to, but their last 2 LPs (2007's "23" and 2004's "Misery Is A Butterfly") were outstanding. As such, I was really looking forward to "Penny Sparkle." Once I found out Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid produced it - who also took production reigns on Fever Ray's superb debut - I couldn't wait. With that said, I'm happy to report that they transferred all the brilliant synth-tastic nuances of that album over to "Penny Sparkle." The combination of BR's finely honed songwriting with Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid's detailed studio trickery is a college art student's dream.

Every song, from opener "Here Sometimes" to the goosebump-inducing "Spain" are rich with ethereal melodies, subtle guitar lines, layered percussion, and all manner of electronic magic. The anchor to every track however is singer Kazu Makino. Despite her noticeable accent, Makino's voice strikes an incredible balance between her powerful melodies and extremely delicate vocals. This is apparent on every song she sings on. The 2 tracks where she doesn't take lead, "Will There Be Stars" and "Black Guitar" (sung by guitarist Amedeo Pace) are still excellent - "Black Guitar" in particular, where the two alternate on the verse and chorus, is one of the best on the album: the melancholy mood sounds like some something Lennon or McCartney might've written on one of their darker days.

Similarly, the emotionally stunning "Love Or Prison", the album's centerpiece, leaves quite a lasting impression. The amount of space in the mix allows every sound and instrument to coalesce beautifully, the wide open feel reflective of the lonely subject matter. Listen to this one in the dark.

Yet, amongst all the amazing tunes, the closer "Spain" would have to be my favorite. The emotional intensity reaches a peak here - it's sad, triumphant, and empowering without ever missing a beat. Few bands can reach into me and settle so comfortably across different feelings, but Blonde Redhead are one of them.

The only song that doesn't stand out to me is the title track. It's not bad by any means but it lacks the memorable instrumentation of everything else on the album. As tempting as it is to review each individual song, just know that the album is perfectly balanced in its running order: it starts strong, stays strong, and ends even stronger.

This album will make your heart cry, but that makes it no less addicting.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
JUST GIVE IT SOME TIME - AMAZING 8 Oct. 2010
By jilixi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
At first I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in this album, just because it's so different from their others and it took a bit of getting used to. But now I can honestly say that it is my favorite BR album.
Penny Sparkle is full of amazingly beautiful tracks with deep, sexy beats, and flowing, luscious vocals, and simply profound lyrics. I freaking love this album. I can listen to it every day. My favorite songs are Black Guitar, Penny Sparkle, Spain, My Plants are Dead, Will Their Be Stars, Oslo. The only track I don't really care for much is Everything Is Wrong... which happens to be my brother's favorite. So to each his own. This album is beautiful. I highly recommend.
I love you blonde redhead - can't wait for the next album!!!!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
dreamy, atmospheric electronic swirls 30 Sept. 2010
By Charlie Quaker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The 8th album since 1995 from New York indie heroes. The persistent & jagged Sonic Youth
influence in their early releases has given way to a beautifully dreary & atmospheric, electronic
Cocteau Twins/Bjork-ian float. The songs all seem to meld together--indistinguishable from each
other--with a combination of soft, near-jazzy experimentalism that sometimes recalls early Japan,
couched in cautiously hypnotic swirls of post-shoegaze expansionism. It's truly gorgeous, but
ultimately boring, as the stunning production glosses over what feels like a lack of substance and
diversity.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Give it time... 20 April 2014
By Frederick A> Bigden - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I can understand why opinon on this album is divided. But after having five years to digest and let it become part of the bands overall catalog rather than being "the new album" I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's their best work. I was one of the disapointed when I first heard it. But over time something about this record slowly grabbed hold of me and hasn't let go since.
Looking back on it I don't think the slow,dreamy mood of the album should have been so jarring to me when I first gave it a listen. In a way I think this album has much in common with "Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons". On "Melody" the band turned down the guitars (mostly) and showed a softer, more intimate side to their sound. It also led to a string of albums where the band somehow managed to streach their sound in new directions while still managing to retain what is essential about themselves. I love the pre-Melody releases as well but looking back on it they all seem to be a variation of a theme, while everything after it has been a singular work of art.
What I love about "Penny" is it's beatiful, haunting simplicity. Yes, it is full of colorful keyboard and guitar work, but at it's core several of the songs are quite simple. Kazu's vocal melodies are exceptionally strong on this record, and I think several of the songs could pass the "acoustic campfire guitar test" that a great song will still work even if stripped to its bare essentials (the chords, melody, and lyrics).
Something about "Penny" makes me believe that, like "Melody", it will be the beginning of a new phase for the band. Then again, the new record could be a complete departure from "Penny". That's what I love about Blonde Redhead, all you can ever expect about each one of their releases is the band has put their whole heart and soul into it. Anything else about the record is sure to surprise (even confuse) the first time listener. The lesson I will keep in mind when I hear the new release (hopefully sometime this year!) is that, even if I don't like or understand it at first, I should give it time...
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