Pentimento could be the biggest thing to come out of Buffalo in many years. For us Buffalonians, when one of our own fights through the rust belt gauntlet and manages to break free from the snowy stigma of our fair city, we like to celebrate. In this case, it's singer/guitarist Jeramiah Pauly, guitarist Lance Claypool, bassist Vincent Caito, and drummer Michael Hansen - they are the four musicians that make up Pentimento. Since forming in 2010, they have taken their craft as seriously as possible, trading in the dead-end local show grind for a van and a DIY lifestyle. A look at their Twitter or Facebook might suggest otherwise, but trust me, as hilarious as these guys might be, their perseverance and hard work has paid off. They recently inked a deal with Paper & Plastick/Black Numbers to release their debut self-titled LP.
Pentimento is a punk rock band, no doubt. But they owe just as much to the emotive power pop of Jimmy Eat World as they do to their punk rock roots. They are the type of band that epitomizes what the emo/indie scene of the mid-2000's should have turned into. Pentimento's biggest strength is that they are straightforward, honest, and intense as both musicians and people. They are the kind of band you can be proud to listen to.
Pentimento epitomizes the band's ability to write sincere and relatable punk rock. Pentimento has a knack for being existential without being pretentious. They question the day to day minutia that can really get a person confused and they do this all without whining or coming off as overly sensitive. Pentimento is just four guys in a room (or perpetually in a van, considering the band's furious tour schedule) playing music because they want to have some fun and get some of that weight off of their chests. Pauly makes no attempt to shroud his words in mystery; these men have questions, and they are not ashamed to be asking them.
The album opener, "Unless," could easily become a blueprint for the genre. A quick palm muted intro is met with that melodic, yearning punk rock that Pentimento does so well. Yes, this song has the capability of being a prototype for other bands, but if it was anyone other than Pentimento, it wouldn't come off as strong. Pauly sings, "Everyone I know, considers me a joke, with good reason I suppose." The magic of lines like this is that I could either be quietly nodding my head in agreement, screaming along in anger, or laughing because I feel the same way - they all mean the same thing to Pentimento. The important thing is, you cared enough to share the moment with them.
Following "Unless" is the moody "Circles," the first single off of Pentimento. "Circles" is a good indicator of Pentimento's evolution since their debut, 2010's Wrecked. Here we find Pentimento approaching a more emotive brand of punk, recalling a band like Brand New in the "Deja Entendu era" of mid-2000's emo. They never lose the punk edge that has got them thus far, but it is obvious that they have put a lot of effort into layering these songs, and they are thick with both instrumentation and emotion. Pauly even says it himself in one of my personal favorite tracks on Pentimento, "Conscience (Consequence)." He might as well have taken a book straight from my non-existant journal. He says "I'm not ashamed to admit my feelings until it comes down to somebody who counts... Like how much we disregard ourselves just to treasure someone else." Ugh, me too man, me too...
"Almost Atlantic" is another album highlight. The song is gentle at first, with Pauly singing both a low and a high harmony. This vocal tactic is not what I was expecting, especially since Pauly has such a trademark grit to his voice, but it is a perfect example of one of the most interesting things about Pentimento. The band is definitely trying new things. For a punk band, it's hard to evolve without changing so much that they alienate their core group of fans, but Pentimento seem to have stumbled upon both a concrete formula and a set of interchangeable variables. You can guess which ones they have learned to switch in and out.
Pentimento also seems to have a strong oceanic theme. Whether it's obvious from the album cover, placed in a song title like "Almost Atlantic," or hidden in the lyrics of "Cirlces" ("The tide goes in, the tide goes out, we're growing up to grow apart"), Pentimento relates the ebb and flow of the ocean to the ebb and flow of people and emotion in our own lives. Whether or not the ocean is something you associate with happiness or even some sort of cold finality, it doesn't matter. Pentimento feels the same way. The importance of it all is that they want you to share that with them.
When I first heard the soaring guitar solo on Pentimento's cover of Dashboard Confessional's "The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most," (on their split with Young English released earlier this year), it gave me shivers. With that in mind, I was happy to see some more impressive guitar work on Pentimento. The band is smart enough not to lay it on too thick. Their music isn't meant to carry one blistering riff after another, but the lead guitar work on songs like "No One Lets You Know" and "For Winter" is indication that Pentimento know more about music than just writing a catchy song. As for drummer Mike Hansen, some of his fills are mind blowing. In fact, he may or may not be some sort of monster. But he, like the rest of the band, knows when to play it up and when to hold back, and it makes the parts where Pentimento really lets loose all the more poignant.
"Subtle Words" deserves a paragraph of it's own. At this point on the record, you realize that Pentimento has mastered the art of seeming vulnerable without ever coming off as helpless or overemotional. Pauly is an excellent singer and his voice never falters, but in "Subtle Words," he pulls back in a way that really helps this song hit home. But Pentimento have really outdone themselves here by including a string arrangement. You heard me right, I don't know how they did it, but they managed to fit a string arrangement into one of their punk rock songs. It works so unbelievably well to begin with, and then they hit me where it hurts... Pauly says, "I don't feel shame for not feeling guilt for what I've become, and until I'm bones in a box I never will." Deal with it Dashboard Confessional, Pentimento are the new shiver-inducers, and they are here to stay.