'I Disappear' by Pen Pals is a reflective work of art. Four out of five stars.
The folk duo Pen Pals – comprised of Heath McNease and Jetty Rae – recently released their second album, I Disappear. A mature follow-up to their acclaimed debut EP, I Disappear features velvet harmonies that unravel introspective lyrics of loss, sorrow, perseverance and hope. And this time around, Pen Pals brings more strings and keys into the mix.
The first two songs, "All Who Are Lost" and "Devils," remind the listener what to love about Pen Pals. Both open with acoustic guitar playing and offer ideas of truth and absolutes to contemplate. The former has a captivating chorus, and the latter has an overall smooth and airy feel to it.
"Camelot," the third track, comes along with a nice change of pace. Obviously the poppiest song on I Disappear, "Camelot" bounces and sways with prominent, rhythmic keys and strings. It's a different sound for Pen Pals, and it's interesting to hear.
After "Camelot" come the album's best songs – the greatest of which are arguably "Out of My Hands" and the title track, "I Disappear." McNease begins "Out of My Hands" by singing, "Leaves that are green turn to brown. Blue turns gray in this town." Essentially, the song is about experiencing death and understanding powerlessness. It features a significant amount of keys, and the piano in the bridge is emotionally powerful. Additionally, strings and percussion join in on the bridge – creating fantastic layers.
"I Disappear" returns to mostly acoustic guitar, with some strings present in the middle of the track. The song communicates a realization of disappointment while still yearning for hope. It also carries feelings of loneliness and exhaustion. The pair sing, "The past rewinds 'til it gets you in the frame. A fast decline – loss of innocence and shame." It's a song that leaves a lasting impression.
Pen Pals' sophomore release ultimately brings to the table what listeners already like about the duo while also taking a few new sonic trails. It's a quality album that asks questions, makes statements and explores thoughts with a joyful sadness. Pen Pals searches for meaning and identity through the lyrics of I Disappear as well. Although there are a couple songs that may seem somewhat repetitive, the pros of I Disappear easily outweigh the cons. Fans of Pen Pals and folk music would enjoy this album.