Band of the Day

2011.11.25

Penguin Prison

Vivacious house filled with laser synths and sparkling pop hooks
It happens all the time, an old design that can’t be traced, or shown on walls to contemplate, if ever there was only one escape route.
lyrics from Golden Train

Penguin Prison is the project of Chris Glover, a New York-based vocalist, musician and producer. Born in Manhattan, Glover had some interesting musical footnotes before finding his present sound, including singing in a gospel choir with Alicia Keys before she became a superstar and singing in a joke boy band called the Smartest People at Bard while attending college. After writing an album and scrapping it for being too all over the place, he adopted the Penguin Prison moniker in 2009. Glover quickly made a name for himself as a remixer and DJ, creating mixes for high profile dance groups like Goldfrapp and Passion Pit. He began recording original material, releasing Animal Animal / A Funny Thing on Neon Gold Records and followed that up with The Worse It Gets in March 2010 also on Neon Gold. Glover released his debut album Penguin Prison on Downtown Records on October 18th, 2011.

If you were a music listener even just a decade ago, you'd remember that there was a wall between independent music and mainstream, radio ready pop. Even alternative rock and indie rock were very separate. Today, it feels like the walls have almost totally collapsed, and groups like Penguin Prison prove it with their seamless mixture of hip disco house and pure bubblegum pop. Penguin Prison is the project of New York based singer/musician/producer Chris Glover. While Glover chose an exceedingly cruel moniker, his music is upbeat and positive. It's the kind of thing that sounds best loud, cranked so the steady bass drum hits boom and synths crunch powerfully, commanding funky body movements. Glover is borrowing from the usual suspects here: 80s electro, disco, house and pop. This is club-filling party music, no doubt about it, but after watching the acoustic performances of his songs floating around the Internet, it's clear Glover comes at this from the angle of a songwriter, not a DJ. With his disarming vocals and thoughtful lyrics, his recently released self-titled debut isn't filled with your run of the mill electro-pop bangers. One of Glover's greatest strengths is his ability to simultaneously borrow from underground influences and the biggest pop stars. “Golden Train” unfolds over the course of six minutes, beginning with glitchy 8-bit squiggles as Glover does his best Justin Timberlake impression (which is really pretty good), and quickly kicks up the energy, showing off some acrobatic R&B vocals skills. On “Don't F*ck With My Money,” an irresistible 80s-influenced electro-pop gem, he guns for the king of pop himself, busting out Michael Jackson-esque percussive breaths, and sharply cut off phrases (think “Billie Jean”). The chorus is electric as Glover leads a mini synth-pop orchestra of horns, guitar and twinkling synths. “Desert Cold” is playfully stuffed with hooks as chiming synths and guitars lay the foundation for an incredibly catchy vocal line. Whether you're hearing it in a club, or piped into your headphones, Penguin Prison have an electricity to them that’s uncommonly exciting and contagious.