On latest EP Summer Sessions, Townsville’s Ben Penna paints an acoustic-driven portrait of Australian summer and the characters who revel in it.
Ben Penna has returned from his hiatus with Summer Sessions, a seven-track EP that pays homage to the joys of the Australian sun. The project kicks off with Life, which follows Penna as he vividly describes the scenes of his beachside surroundings.
A sunny vignette from the shoreline, Life collects disparate images from “the sound of the waves” to “the little grommet with a three-foot board,” as guided by soft, acoustic pop.
Through it all, Penna’s rustic vocals reign supreme, with an aged quality that gives weight to his ruminations on life by the beach. “I love this life,” Penna sings on the infectious refrain — and with a soundtrack like this, complete with coastal sound effects, it’s hard not to agree with him. The tempo accelerates on second track Fairytale, which defies the conceptions of its title for a searing recount of a troublesome relationship.
“I know you think you’re some kind of princess,” Penna croons in one of multiple references to folklore, “but you’re the wicked witch in my fairytale.” With a rapid-fire cadence and the quick strums of subtle guitar, Penna dismantles the idea of a fairytale romance with incisive finesse. To combine surf rock stylings with thoughtful lyricism is no small feat, but Penna’s versatility only continues on Found.
Here, the Queensland singer-songwriter tries his hand at guitar-driven balladry, with intimate melodies and a nostalgic reflection on marital bliss. In between subtle percussive flairs and finger-picked strings, Penna reminiscences on a summery romance, declaring on the tender chorus: “I’m glad I found you, I’m glad you found me.”
Marking Summer Sessions’ grooviest tune, Get High coasts by on a funky bassline as Penna revels in the joyous elixirs of life, while Enough serves as an exercise in lyrical vulnerability — sketching a portrait of woman with “a thousand thoughts weighed down on her shoulders.” The scat-style energy of Fairytale appears again on penultimate track Fool, which boasts mono-rhythmic guitar work and folk-leaning sonics, as if performed in the glow of a campfire.
Penna’s efforts culminate on EP closer Moment, which circles back to the storytelling of Life for an evocative rumination on listening to one another. It’s a worthy finish to Summer Sessions’ odyssey through summer and the vivid characters who live through it, with Penna emerging as bona fide narrative songwriter.
The new project marks Penna’s return to music after a hiatus, and serves as a welcome return to form. The singer-songwriter will mark his re-arrival with an upcoming set at North Australian Festival of Arts next month, where he forms part of a music program that also includes Andy Brassett and Mahalia Barnes, among many others. He is also set to appear at Tropic Sounds festival, joining a stellar lineup headlined by Tones & I and Illy.