Jack Peñate, ‘Everything Is New’ (XL)
Jack Peñate’s winning 2007 debut, Matinée, snatched a page from bright ’80s pop, bearing an obvious strand of Hall & Oates’ DNA. This murkier sequel enhances the dance grooves while aspiring to the morose eloquence of the Cure’s Robert Smith, with mixed yet intriguing results. In seeking to combine weighty subjects (spiritual crises, etc.) and party music, Peñate sometimes goes astray — “So Near” finds him breezily slinging dopey clichés (“Love is not a game”). Fortunately, his natural exuberance carries the day. “Let’s All Die” is possibly the giddiest song about mortality ever.