15 Apr 2021

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Dead Little Penny - Album River: Urge Surfing

13 Nov 2019 // A review by Lou Clement
Dead Little Penny released their debut album Urge Surfing on 13 November 2019. It’s nine tracks of electro-industrial, synthesiser-infused melodic, dirge-drifting fun. Lyrically, it’s introspective almost without a break, and throughout, it is driven by an interlacing of ethereal pop-like vocals. I think it has a commitment to authenticity, which widens its appeal. This release follows appearances from the band throughout the year and the release of their singles Depression, earlier in the year, and Dead Together, both of which feature on the album.

The 80’s feel of opening track Honeycomb reminds me of a road movie soundtrack. It drones in its repetitive drumbeats, like the repeat noise of wheels on tarmac. Its lyrics are a snapshot into an emotional decision, but delivered with a lightness, which, Hayley has said is personally how she deals with things and therefore, it is also what she brings to the music. Dead Little Penny’s music feels like it provides sanctuary through expression; its echoes and ticks of noises rise and fall multiple times within each track. The sound conjured is one I love.

The opening notes of Out Of Body Experience pick up the pace from preceding tracks and the mellow vocals hover somewhere in the distance, at times blending with a muted, but energetic electric guitar. It has an edginess to it, sort of a gothic electro rock in-tone. A sense of emotional unease pervades the feel of the album.

In Dead Together, I clearly see Smith’s vocal predecessor as Karen O. Although, in composition, the vocals are definitely being played down, blending metal influences rather than the rowdiness of punk. Throughout the album the guitar and synthesiser fillet the soundwaves, chopping them into tiny pieces, layer upon layer is blended into a cajoling surge of reverberations.

Defence Mechanism takes its lyrics "yes, I know I should do more…" almost a cliche from the self-improvement movement and provides a sobering sense of realism "….but I could do worse". The lyrics are sandwiched between synthesiser and tambourine, the chorus repeats throughout as the music swirls around them, meditative in its message.

Altogether, an awesome debut and a fine effort.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Dead Little Penny

Dead Little Penny is the coming together of guitar-slinging vocalist and songwriter Hayley Smith, and drummer/synth player Simon Buxton, who create a soundscape of noisy textures, fizzing guitars and ambient synth, paired with catchy fuzz-pop melodies.

What originally began as a dreamy alt-country project, tracks from their self-titled EP received radio play, with the band fast becoming popular amongst musicians in Auckland’s underground country scene.

What seems like an unlikely change of genre, Hayley feels more at home writing with a broken drum machine and an electric guitar. As a teenager, she began making pop- punk and wall-of-sound music in her bedroom with a guitar gifted to her on her 13th birthday. Playing at beer-fuelled house parties in Central Auckland, Hayley became a regular gig-goer, fast drawn to favourites The Mint Chicks and Die! Die! Die!

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Dead Little Penny


Urge Surfing
Year: 2019
Type: Album

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