Advertisement

Album Review: Penny Peach — ‘Brain Gamez’

  • 43
    Shares

2021 is the year of reinvention, and Penny Peach’s Brain Gamez is the perfect soundtrack. Penny Peach is the multi-talented Elly Hofmaier. The singer, writer and recent University of Iowa grad released this carefully crafted five-track EP on March 5 along with an apt message: “just tryna get my mind right.”

This album unfolds like the world’s most dangerous butterfly. The first track is a prologue that expertly guides us into a genre-defying aural trip. Titled “Think More Deeply,” this is what would play at a prom if Fiona Apple was in charge of the music. If Donna Summer had come of age in the post-Reagan era and hired Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead to be her guitarist, this is how she might sound.

“Think More Deeply” is followed by “Self-Help,” which is best absorbed in a smoky basement while enjoying a mid-shelf scotch from your hip flask. “Self-Help” is garage punk poetry that gives us our first taste of Hofmaier’s fearless vocal style. It’s the perfect lead-in to “Laurelz.”

“Laurelz” is probably my favorite song on the album. Our riot grrrl foremothers would be so proud. Inspired by the darkest of ’60s psychedelia (is doom-psych a genre? It is now), “Laurelz” also features some of Hofmaier’s most experimental vocalizations. Her tone drifts from sarcastic to matter-of-fact, between humor and apprehension.

This feels like a good point to reiterate the care with which this album has been assembled. This is not the sophomore product of an overwhelmed amateur. Even as she plays with style, her performance remains consistently self-assured.

It’s that attitude, imbued in every song, that truly unifies this body of work. Compared to “Laurelz,” the track that follows is a stylistic 180. “Leddin It All Go” is a soul-inspired ode to the before times and the reasons we reinvent ourselves in the first place: to put the past behind us and move forward into what is hopefully a bright new future.

The song begins, sweet and melancholic, with Hofmaier easily strumming her guitar. This is before she exercises her full vocal range, building up to a primal yell that—one presumes—signifies the actual act of letting go, so to speak.

(Disclaimer: “Leddin It All Go” contains emergency sirens, which is an audio pet peeve of mine. Are we not in agreement, as a culture and as a species, that emergency sirens in music need to go?)

Hofmaier saves her best-known song for last. “Bangz” is relatable as hell and the perfect sign-off for the record of this era. This is Penny Peach at her most soulful. She leaves us with “Maybe I’ll go by Eleanor / or maybe I’ll cut my bangz.”

Oh man. Maybe this is my favorite song on the album. She should perform a duet with Lizzo. They’d be perfect together singing about 2 a.m. takeout and losing their house keys.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 293.


  • 43
    Shares
Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV » editor@littlevillagemag.com

Advertisement

Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.

Regular

$10/mo or $120/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.

Italic

$20/mo or $240/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.

Bold

$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
LittleVillageMag.com connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.