08 December 2017 (released)
21 December 2017
On her third full-length LP Penguin Party, synthe-songwriter Sarah Schonert further explores the atmospheres that can be created with cascading vocal loops and digital fairyland soundscapes all pinned together by her trusty piano that always seems to link the listener back to their own sense of humanity amid a disorienting wonderland. The album, like any good fairy tale, has themes that stand in for quirky sidekicks, evil monsters and a host of other whimsical characters that the protagonist meets along their journey. This all takes place in a nebulous haze of dreamy synth-smoke.
The album opens with chiming echoes and synthesized strings in the taunting 'Astound Me'. Schonert plays the part of a scoffing gate-keeper with a sly delivery and lofty demands. Her piano accompanies her like a protective pet mimicking her vocals and raising its voice to challenge any potential suitors. The song stands as a mission statement of sorts, to find a partner that can “move the stars”.
'Queen of Panels' embraces an indie disco vibe where her piano is met with quivering synths. Schonert channels Stevie Nicks erupting in cracking yells and layering multiplying vocal iterations as Stevie does on Edge of Seventeen. Her otherwise soft-spoken voice becomes a fierce growl.
The title track 'Penguin Party' aptly approximates a gala type environment with bumbling birds steeped in pretension, all hobnobbing in some surreal Pixar dreamscape. A whirring synth shuffles and burrows through the icy soundscape. One synth trickles like the first drips of a melting icicle while another chirps like an obstinate alpha penguin. The instructional 'Listen Soak Repeat' espouses the virtues of taking time out of busy day to day activities to be still, a quirky ode to baths.
Penguin Party alternates between confessional piano-led tracks and the more obscure synth-dominated fare. Both have their own virtues but it's perhaps the instrumental work that sticks out the most as it is the most inventive.