Archives for posts with tag: Penelope Esplin

Grawlixes_Good ShadowWellington-by-way-of-Dunedin duo Grawlixes have just released their debut album “Set Free” and it’s a bittersweet reflection on life and love and coming together and moving apart. Hard to pick a representative tune, but I’ve always loved “Good Shadow” so here we go:

“Good Shadow” also exists as a song on the 2nd album by The Prophet Hens, a band Robin Cederman and Penelope Esplin have been part of in Dunedin for several years. A sign of a great song is how well it works in different settings.

The album is beautifully crafted folk-influenced pop. The minimalism of guitar and melancholy accordian is augmented with some fine sonic touches from electric guitar and also violin arrangements from Alex Vaatstra. But the real heart and soul of the album is the pairing of the voices of Penelope and Robin.

To illustrate all the above here’s another song – “Darling” – which is also familiar from The Prophet Hens live set, but which was never recorded by that band:

 

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The Prophet Hens – photo by Phoebe Lysbeth K http://www.phoebelysbethk.com/

Day 4 of the 31 Days of may Madness for New Zealand Music Month 2017 is another Dunedin tune, this time dialing up some jangling melancholia by The Prophet Hens. Here, from their 2nd album “The Wonderful Shapes of Back Door Keys”, is “Good Shadow”

“Good Shadow” is an enigmatic song, apparently about nothing more complicated than, well, the writer/ narrator’s shadow. But it is saturated with metaphorical weight and the pay off line -“don’t let me down” seems to be sung more in resigned hope than confident direction.

As a noun “shadow” in its most direct meaning is a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface. But it can also refer to proximity, ominous oppressiveness, or sadness and gloom. There are a lot of shadows of both kinds in Dunedin.

I’m always going on about the (oppressive) shadow cast by the past of Dunedin’s fabled 1980s music era over the current era of musicians. Unusually for a contemporary Dunedin band, The Prophet Hens wear their local influences on their sleeves (or wings) so they would probably regard it as a… “Good Shadow”!

The song (along with half the album it is from) features the wonderful voice of Penelope Esplin. She also plays the old Casiotone given to her as a child by her father which gives the song (and the album) it’s colourful fairground wheeze. Penelope’s voice can also be heard with French For Rabbits and her own duo Grawlixes, along with The Prophet Hens’ bassist Robin Cederman.

[Note: Music released on the label I run isn’t usually featured on PopLib because PopLib is more about helping with the discovery of other mostly underground/ under-known/ under-appreciated bands and musicians. I’ll be making an exception during this, the 4th year of NZ Music Month daily posts on PopLib. As over 160 great NZ songs have been released on the label over the past 11 years it seems a bit unfair to omit them from consideration. These are after all some of my favourite local bands creating some of my favourite music.]