In the guide to the essential indie synth-pop musicians of the 2010s, Penguin Prison will absolutely make an appearance. Since 2009, Chris Glover’s one-man music-making and remixing operation has put out two albums alongside remixes for the likes of Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey, and Imagine Dragons. He’s got an ear for knowing how to get the masses to dance, and his latest EP keeps the streak going. Turn It Up is a compact quartet of toe-tapping tunes that deal with topics that are more introspective than songs past, focusing on adversity and uncertainty about the future. Sure, the lyrics are growing up, but the melodies are as catchy as ever.
Glover and company know that the crowd came to dance, so they made sure the setlist was tuned accordingly. Most songs featured a marriage of quick guitar riffs, four-on-the-floor drums, and smooth bass lines. It's a tried and true formula, but it's one that Penguin Prison nails over and over. While Glover exudes a certain level of laid-back charm, watching him wildly tear into his many guitar solos is a treat. He'll flail around, lean into the crowd, and even get on his knees, a showy callback to some of the great rock bands of years past. And in classic Bruce Springsteen fashion, he and his backing guitarist shared a mic for some time, too. Glover is nothing if not a crowd-pleaser - along with playing “Hollywood,” the popular RAC track featuring his vocals, his cover of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” had everyone singing along to end the night. In the end, Penguin Prison will be known not for pushing the musical envelope in new directions, but instead for being something akin to Max Martin for the indie scene - he knows the formula for making an irresistible synth-pop song, but backs it up with real instruments.
Turn It Up is available now through Downtown Records.
Opening for Penguin Prison was Mating Ritual, the solo project of former Pacific Air band member Ryan Marshall Lawhon. His debut album How You Gonna Stop It? is available now through Smooth Jaws.