Every once in a while, you’ll have those bands that start from a grassroots movement, work their asses off and create an album that will propel them to heights that they couldn’t even imagine. Disregard your American Idol shows because sometimes, the next big band is born with street teams and local gigs. Especially if they’re from the state that I call home – New Jersey. Those Mockingbirds have come a long way from debuting on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers chart at No. 1 with their first ep, No Symmetry. Their debut full length, Penny the Dreadful, shows unrelenting versatility throughout the rock genre. The album is like a grandiose display of a confident band and the accumulation of all their hard work to this point.
I’m going to draw attention to the opening and closing tracks of the album, “A Ballad from Hell” and “I Feel Like I Died”. Dreadful plays out like a ten-track graphic novel and these two tracks tie up the album nicely with a southern, blues-like twist. Singer/guitarist Adam Bird and violinist Tory Daines complement each other so well that it almost seems like a couple setting out on an outlaw journey. They know one of them will perish (“maybe we’re both going to hell”), but the love for each other keeps them going through impending sorrow or departure (“I feel like I died/without you by my side”).
We then get into the kick you in the teeth-style anthem “How to Rob a Bank”, in which I challenge you to not stomp your feet or join in on the gang vocals. What Those Mockingbirds does extremely well is take the rock that we have heard before and make it completely their own. There are sound landscapes that go from aggressive to serene. One of my favorite tracks, “S.A.L.T.” demonstrates the Jekyll of this project. In an almost trippy arrangement, we have the dueling guitars of Bird and guitarist Jonathan Gianino coupled with the piano/violin of Daines to make a very emotional song that works well.
Penny the Dreadful is loyal enough to appease old fans and accessible enough to bring in new listeners. I’m a big fan of bands testing their limits, especially now that we are in a climate that rewards the same equation of sounds repeatedly. Those Mockingbirds is definitely destined for great things and as this album is self-released, it will be on their own terms.