Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea
By David Chiu
Michael Penn is a criminally-underrated singer and songwriter: No one can make reflective and somber songs sound so melodic and ornate like he does. The mainstream public’s ignorance of his work can be forgiven with this latest collection. It is really not a best-of in the sense that some of the material has either been reworked or presented it in alternative versions. Penn will sadly be remembered for his one-hit, the brilliant “No Myth” (which sounds left-of-field in the era of Wilson Phillips and M.C. Hammer) but there are other strong songs of that vein like “Bunker Hill,” “Try,” and “Walter Reed” the latter off of Penn’s last studio album, the solid Mr. Hollywood 1947 (That has been just reissued with some extra bonus tracks). Penn’s Beatles-laden vocals offer some of the wistful, tenderness that matches well with his yearning and sometimes downbeat songwriting. This is an artist who deserves a second listen.