There are some musicians that have the ability to communicate emotion in such a special way that the listener feels an instant connection with the sound. They might be born with this undefinable ability or their life experiences sharpened it. Regardless of how it came about, these rare musicians are not simply creators of art, but messengers with the ability to communicate higher exploration of emotional themes through unique personality and precise thought. Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Stephin Merritt, Patti Smith, and so many more are not just applauded for their musical abilities, but many listeners look to them as the gatekeepers of emotional truth and their special personalities constantly remind why music is so very important.
While many pages can be filled with artists who fit this description from the past, there are only a few that emerged with such a power over the last decade. Alden Penner is one of them. Penner, previously of The Unicorns and Clues acclaim, has been quietly releasing minimal solo projects over the last few years. His newest EP, Precession, is a four track reminder of why Penner is such a great talent with an ear for making sounds feel emotionally tangible.
On the title track "Precession", Penner guides the listener through the many levels emotional possibility. What starts as a blues riff gives way to soft strums and bounces sharply back and forth like a slow moving wheel of visual sound swells. "Precession" explodes with a rusted guitar and then phases out, only to reintroduce itself moments later, this time fit snuggly in with the previously established components. Penner repeats one line over and over: "Now that I have you, next to my body...I can do with you, all that I want to...do". It's an arrow through the heart line that seems to take on more significance each time the line is repeated. Like the song itself, the stand alone lyric seems to breath new life as the music builds and builds.
It will be hard for most to understand why I put Penner in the same class as a Cohen or Merritt, but dig into the entirety of his work from the playful masterpiece Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? to this new EP and careful listeners will see the progression of a special artist. There is one common thread in every piece of music Penner crafts: his personality as a musician demands a unique, but universal communication of emotional truth. Anyone who opens up their soul to Precession will be rewarded with the ability to feel as the artist wanted you to feel. This is the greatest accomplishment any musician could ever achieve.