Wesley Jensen and The Penny Arcade is a band out of Denton, TX. They make 60s inspired pop with a folky, Americana, dreamy sound emerging from Jensen’s upbringing in a small town in Northern California.
However, a more loquacious description comes from the man himself as “an embryonic sound burgeoning daily into panache emblematic of … modern & classical influences most commonly derivative of folk, experimental, or alternative genres. Lyrically, it is quite ordinary … chronicle sought after questions, personal grief, doubts, relationships, and his refreshingly semi-optimistic worldview.”
This 4-song EP is the 3rd part of 4 EPs to be released this year: Something Old, Something New, Something Else, Something Blue (to be released this fall). Garnering audience attention among the glut of constantly new music is the big problem for musicians today. Jensen explained that releasing what ostensibly is a full length album “this way could be a better idea than just putting out one album at one point during the year and then having people soon forget about it.” He wanted to retain people’s interest acknowledging that apps like Spotify had changed the way people listened to music making it much easier for listeners to simply move on.
He laments not being able to release a full length in the classic way but has adapted to the technological present admitting this creative release strategy has been able to keep people interested throughout the year- especially difficult for a small indie artist. He says, “Because so much is DIY these days, being an indie artist is really hard to separate yourself and stick out in the crowd. And, the hardest part is being able to stay relevant by keeping up with consistent content, so this idea felt like it would take care of that. It’s been a great year thus far, and I think this plan has really helped out.”
His foresight in industry changes would mean nothing if the music wasn’t worthwhile. Luckily, he’s good at what he does. The songs get your head bobbing and foot shaking as they are infused with pleasant beats and like he said, a sound approaching positivity. This music is easy listening reminiscent of Rooney, Little Joy, and Spooky Mansion.
The first from this EP is “Talking” which has a doo-wop sound that is infectious. It’s about fun and joy and appreciation of the moment being much more important than worrying about life’s travails (i.e., making money). The song embodies the 60s free-love ethos fusing with that generation’s aesthetic.
“Grow” reflects on youthful innocence and sepia toned nostalgia (“Take me back to ’92 / where I can find some truth”) leading to questions about purpose in maturity with “suits and ties and dos and don’ts.” The highlight here is the finale with a flowing synth tripping over the drum and guitar build ending in piano plinks and long synth tones.
“Interlude” slows things way down for a minute in a lament at the bad news that surrounds us. A short mournful tune, it blends perfectly with the upbeat synth introducing “Spent” that picks up into a happy rock tune about lost friends and people going their own way finding their own meaning. Together, you get four tracks about finding meaning/happiness/peace in the transition from childhood to adulthood.
And finally, do yourself a favor and check out the video below. I’m a huge fan of NPR’s Tiny Desk series. Apparently there was a contest for small bands to audition for a spot on the series. The entry from Jensen and his band sees them sitting in an office utilizing the white-collar equipage for musical effect. It’s a treat to watch and the song “Control” is a good one to listen to.
Check out this great EP and hang out to listen to the other he’s released. Also, conform to the potential new norm he sees and get amped for his upcoming fall release of “Something Blue.”