| REVIEW | PENELOPE ISLES – ‘COMFORTABLY SWELL’ |

penelope isles 2

Jack and Lily Wolter make creating music seem like an easy process. ‘Comfortably Swell‘, the first output from their latest project Penelope Isles, is the sixth release in the past two years from the now Brighton-based siblings. The progression from the sparse, considered compositions of Your Gold Teeth, through their intimate solo endeavours Kookie Lou and Cubzoa, to now once again making music together reads like a blossoming narrative which covers a prolific chapter of their lives. If their work is be to considered such, then ‘Comfortably Swell‘ finds them delivering their most accomplished piece yet. 

The record is a lustrous blend of lush harmonies, jangly moulds matched with dewy-eyed exuberance. ‘Round‘ plays off it’s touching affability with soft twangs and loose percussion rolls, washes of subtle reverb enhancing the undeniably moving harmonies as Jack gently sings amorously through the most compelling of choruses. Throughout, the LP displays an underlying beauty in it’s shyness, both Wolters providing gentle insights into their own personalities. The pleasing extended refrains that emotionally compel the title track, a driven burst of instrumentalism that matures from sparse twinkles to an all-out uplifting escalation, showing they’ve never been ones to be pegged down to simply pretty melodies.

Comfortably Swell’ affords an opulent polish, each track pertaining a sentimental wooziness that suitably fits the evocative theme of reminiscence. Opening slowly with each listen,  the way the group engage is in their apparent ease in writing such compelling melodies. Each chorus swells with emotional value; the gentle delivery of their vocals producing the most stirring effect. Lily sings with an innate ability to evoke child-like curiosity, ‘Apple Juice‘ full of wonderment in it’s loose and adventurous moments, ‘The Loop‘ dwells on love’s disorientating nature as guitars sweep and mingle in swelling distortion, while ‘Tea‘ dreams nostalgically of the coast, patters of synth topped with another heart-wrenching chord progression through it’s chorus.

It all builds around an empathetic belief in the reminiscent romance of growing up and it’s influence on what’s happening in the very present. ‘Bad Head‘s introduction is of wishful thinking and a proactive need for change; “I’m trying to act my real self / but I don’t think it’s working.”. A plea for difference and positivity opens the record to the colourful remembrance of youth, ‘Apple Juice‘s comfort and buoyancy in simplicity is the complete antithesis; “I think I’m the better swimmer / after only two weeks” Lily’s lyrics are convivial in their simplest form, yet are penned by an irrepressible melancholy, trying to hold onto the happiest of memories that allow at least a moment of escape, “grab your bucket and spade / before the memory fades“.

An undoubtably uplifting, warm listen, ‘Comfortably Swell’ more than demonstrates a group at a height in their creativity. Although Penelope Isles is a relatively new project, to have made a record of such cohesive warmth and thematic emotion is a credit to each member and the band as a whole. Jack and Lily Wolter find great quality in their solo work, and when together are a positively thriving combination that match moving sentiment with engaging composition.

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