Penelope’s Thrill’s follow up album, ‘Message on the Moon‘, is a captivating exploration, weaving a rich tapestry of sound and storytelling that reflects the band’s growth since their acclaimed debut, ‘Twilight on Tunnel Road‘. Founded by Timothy Walsh in 2015, this Madison-based indie rock outfit delves deep into themes of transformation, drawing inspiration from an unlikely source: a painting by Madison artist Kelli Hoppmann, which hangs above Walsh’s fireplace and graces the album cover.

The album opens with ‘Things Are Falling Down’, setting the stage for a journey through change and evolution. This track, like many others, features Walsh’s signature guitar work – intricate, layered, and emotionally resonant. The title track, ‘Message on the Moon’, stands out with its energetic surf guitar, blending upbeat rhythms with thoughtful lyrics, encapsulating the album’s dual nature of sonic joy and thematic depth.

A standout track, ‘August Night’, directly inspired by Hoppmann’s painting, captures the phantasmagoric essence of her artwork, reflecting a vivid, almost dreamlike metamorphosis in its sound and storytelling. This connection to visual art enriches the listening experience, inviting listeners to see the music as much as hear it.

Walsh’s ability to craft unique guitar soundscapes is showcased throughout the album. Tracks like ‘Things Are Falling Down’ and ‘It’s Yesterday’ tackle heavy subjects such as climate change with an unexpectedly upbeat, almost danceable vibe, using propulsive beats and richly layered guitars to draw listeners in. This clever juxtaposition of serious themes with lively music underscores the album’s creative depth and social consciousness.

‘Soap Bubbles on the Wind’ adds whimsy to the mix, while ‘Abigail’s Waltz’ brings a haunting, death-touched melancholy, highlighting the album’s range. The anguished pop of ‘Leslie Are You Sleeping?’ and the infectious indie pop of ‘Ocean Avenue Sunrise’ further diversify the sonic palette, ensuring that each track offers something new.

Recorded, mixed, and produced in Walsh’s home studio, ‘Message on the Moon‘ benefits from a personal touch that amplifies its authenticity. Walsh’s vintage guitar collection plays a crucial role, with the harmonically rich twelve-string sound of a 1966 Guild Starfire XII, the single coil clarity of a vintage Stratocaster, and the throaty presence of a Gretsch hollowbody, all contributing to the album’s distinctive sound.

Collaborations with other talented musicians, including Ben Lokuta, Ben Jaeger, Wendy Lynn Markus, and international contributors Akmaral Zykayeva and Amanda Sanderson, add further depth and variety to the album. Their contributions enrich the album’s texture, making ‘Message on the Moon‘ a truly collaborative masterpiece.

In ‘Message on the Moon‘, Penelope’s Thrill not only charts a new direction but also solidifies their place in the indie rock landscape. This album is a testament to the power of artistic inspiration and the beauty of metamorphosis, both musically and thematically.

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