Sound — 9
I first heard of this band off AbsolutePunk.net, and one of their staff, Jason Tate, was praising them in his review. And that, to me, is pretty shocking. For the time I had spent there, I hadn't known Jason to believe this much in any sort of music. So, naturally, there had to be something special about them. They had their music streaming on AbsolutePunk, and I was not disappointed at all. Cartel has succeeded in creating a catchy, upbeat, yet instrospective pop punk record. Every song stands out on its own, not one of them could be considered filler. The album kicks off with Say Anything (Else) and the song begins with the sound of a record scratching and it being played. Then you hear William's, the lead singer, vocals, and they sound as if they're coming from a phone. He tells us, "And baby don't follow their lead/'cause you'll never know/Just how the story ends, or how the story goes." And from right there, I knew that Cartel were a different breed of band. Say Anything (Else) is a great album opener, starting off the album's overall mood to a very energetic atmosphere. These guys know how to catch your attention. Honestly is a bit of a love song, with a very catchy chorus. Runaway just proves Cartel has catchy song writing cornered. Alhough it starts off quite lackluster, with alot of palm muting, William's vocals are more than enough. But the rest of the song picks up, I'm quite a fan of the solo. It's not extremely technical but it is fun, and it does convey the emotion of the song. And it isn't that what soloing is all about? Matter Of Time has a great tempo change in it, right near the end. Another great example of his vocals. Burn This City is a sort of stand up and shout song, I think. It's a testament to all the basement bands and kids wanting to break out. Save Us opens up with piano, a nice break from all the fast paced guitar riffs. They know how to keep you interested, by breaking up the tempo of the album like this. They also introduce some string arrangements later in the song. At the end of this song there's some sounds that make it sound elike the tape or record is being flipped to side 2. Just In Time For Luckie St. Another charged and catchy song that reminds you about how fun it was to be young. Settle Down has a great opening drum beat that sets the pace of the song. Every time the chorus kicks in, there's a lot of energy in it. And there's this great lead near the end. If I Fail opens up with a hear wrenching line, once you realize it. "It's time to go, this is goodbye". No one wants to hear it. The Minstrel's Prayer is held together by it's drum beat and string arrangements. This is another song where William just shines as their lead singer. Q uses a lot of palm mutes during the verses, but the chorus is littered with bright guitar riffs. This is one of the most empowering songs to listen to. A is a great finish to a great album, it concludes everything up until now. I think that's the best way to put it.
Lyrics — 10
Cartel tackles alot of different topics on this album. Personally, I find there music to be quite motivating in a world where dark and gloomy songs dominate. Such a environment makes you wonder, which came first, the music or the misery? But alas, I digress. Say Anything (Else), the album opener, tells you that your only limit is yourself. You define who you are and what you become. No one else can do that, and their opinion doesn't matter. Honestly is a love song, I think. That's how I would categorize it. William sings with such conviction and honesty (no pun intended, honest) and seems to be warranting a response. It's about being open, and honest with yourself, and hearing someone out. Runaway is a great followup to Honestly, I think. It's almost like the response we were waiting for from the girl in Honestly. But its not the one we wanted to hear. This song is about hiding yourself, hiding from the truth, hiding your secrets, and running away from it all. All William wants is honesty from this person, but until then, they can runaway. Matter Of Time, yet again, a great follower to the previous track. Amazing song writing. A very heartfelt approach to the human spirit. Burn The City, like I said, is a great song for all the bands trying to make it out there. It's about giving it your all, and not regretting it. You lived with passion. Save Us is song about finding meaning in your passion... Looking for someone to remind you what you're fighting for, what you're living for. They're looking for convictions, for truth. Luckie St. is a song about being young, and getting carried away in the moment. Lyrically, not my favorite song, but still very effective. Settle Down is a song about a break up... and the girl coping from it. It's about letting go of the past, because as long as you hold to that, you can't move on. If I Fail is a song about a break up, as well, but this time from the guy's point of view. A heart broken guy. If you've ever loved a girl, there's no way you won't be able to connect with this song. The Minstrel's Prayer is a very interesting way to look at music. He realizes that these songs are written to catch someone's ear. He compares himself to a minstrel who would sing for a special girl, the one whom they worked so hard to impress. This song goes out to every songwriter out there, and it tells them. Q is about reaching out for the answers to your questions. It's an eye opener, I think. It's about looking for the answer, yes, but he challenges you to stand up to ask the right questions. A takes all the ideas and questions given back in the earlier tracks and answers them. It reiterates them. It tells you that it's up to you to use whatever it is you've learned from listening to the album. Overall, Cartel knows how to construct an album. They know how to make the words fit the mood of the music. They know how to make you think. They know how to strike that chord in your heart. And God, William knows how to sing.
Overall Impression — 10
Cartel deserves any and all recognition they get. They're one of the most honest bands I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. I really can't name any specific stand out tracks, I like them all. I really do. I love this album's honesty, its conviction, its willingness to ask the right questions, its ability to connect with the listener. I hope these guys hit it big. They deserve it. If my copy were stolen, I would definitely buy it again. It's worth it. Face it people, it's that good.