by Glennon F. Curran
Typhoid Beach is the burgeoning project of New Albany, IN songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Mat Pennington. The project took shape during a transitional period at the end of significant relationships in Penington’s personal and musical lives. “I just sort of stay[ed] inside a lot and poured myself over a small studio I built in my parents house,” he recounts. “That is when I started posting early recordings online labeled as Typhoid Beach.” The release of two online EPs in 2016 put his songs front and center for the first time. Savage is the third release from Typhoid Beach, and is by far its most definitive and ambitious effort to date. This point is driven home by the fact that Penington engineered and performed the entire record himself (with the exception of the title track).
Savage begins and ends with the two most intimate tracks of the record. The opener (“Jaw”) hooks the listener with a mountainous emotional climax and a repeating phrase: “my old man says god damn.” The album ends with the stripped-down guitar/vocal arrangement of “New Albany.”
The songs in between are fuller. Penington’s haunting voice resounds through jangly guitar for a beachy, melancholic bedroom pop that is carried forward by surfy drums and bass. There is darkness despite the beach vibes though. Whatever it is, Typhoid Beach is not a sunny beach; it is more like a nighttime beach where amber campfires light dark corners of the shore during fleeting moments. The songs broadcast an eerie authenticity where the simple seems complex because of how alone it makes you feel. Tracks like “Skin” and “Trying” are the up-tempo anchors, while“Stay” and “Bed” burn with a lower intensity. The lyrics grasp at memories and ruminate on the nature of relationships.
Savage sets the bar high for future releases; but I think that’s the point. Like a true passion project, the record is a statement made by Penington in order to prove something to himself. While only he can know if he succeeded, it is clear that he created something original in his efforts. The album’s authenticity rings loudly and demonstrates to the world that its central architect is a gifted songwriter and a unique voice. It is a memorable and refreshing album worth revisiting often.
Now that Penington has firmly established his voice on Savage, he is building the project’s future with an established band. He expects to craft future material with longtime contributor Adam Faris (drums) and friends AJ White (guitar) and Mikey Shelton (bass). We can only hope there is much more to come from Typhoid Beach.