Carta “The Faults Follow” (Saint Marie, 2013)
Following two well-received albums on Resonant and Silber, Carta join the Saint Marie family with more of their dark atmospherics. Vocals are more prominent this time, allowing the band to paint more specific pictures while steering our attention in a more specific emotional direction. The effect is also strengthened by alternating male (Kyle Monday) and female (Jennifer Harper, from the Co-Op) voices, each of whom bring their own shade of melancholic angst to the table. “The Iowa Fight Song,” for instance, is anything but – a dirgy navelgazer, with a forlorn piano tinkling under guest vocalist, Odessa Chen’s aching, disembodied vocals – certainly NOT coming to a Hawkeye event any time soon.
Simple melodies such as the two-note riff at the heart of “The Hollow Greeting” actually reinforce the song’s message, encapsulated in Harper’s repeated admonition, “Hollow greeting/I’ve heard it before.” Short and to the point. Frustration at the lack of communication perfectly wrapped inside a minimalist backing. One of the few instrumentals, ‘Header’ floats effortlessly across a golden field like white dandelion fluff over what sounds like someone at the typewriter in the background – perhaps composing a love letter that will never be read? Sadness has rarely been captured so elegantly.
Longtime fans may be uncomfortable with the more delicate direction the band has taken – veering a little more toward Hood, Piano Magic, and arco influences. This kinder, gentler Carta may also reflect recent personal heartbreak (band members dealing with death, cancer, rehab, etc. in their families), but newbies will find a warm collection of sounds that also nod in the general direction of Red House Painters or Elephant 6-ers like Elf Power, Olivia Tremor Control, and Neutral Milk Hotel. And “Morse Code” may be the long lost This Mortal Coil track you’ve never heard. Harper has the Rutkowski sisters’ ethereal delivery and stilted phrasing down pat!
Not to be completely bummed out, “The Last Name of Your First Love” is more than a password hint – it actually had my toe breaking into a little tap, and the instrumental “Saragossa” allows the listener to fill in the blanks in their own personal emotional rollercoaster. The loss and pain of a loved one’s passing or a departed soulmate drip like droplets of blood, sweat, and tears off Kyle Monday’s fingers. The album also cuts back on the meandering search for the lost chord that brought Stars of The Lid and Windy & Carl comparisons to previous outings – not that that’s a bad thing. The tracks are just a little more focused this time, with the vocals tugging you along like a pied piper encouraging you to pay closer attention to what lies behind the curtain of tears.
Review made by Jeff Penczak/2013
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