Sound: Cloud Cult are an indie/avant-garde pop band from Minnesota. They've turned down deals from most major record labels, record their albums in a studio powered by geothermal energy that is partially made out of recycled plastic and reclaimed wood, donate all of the profits to environmental charities, and tour in a bio-diesel van. While you've probably never heard of them, they actually tend to do fairly well on college radio stations. They are successful in creating a sound like no one else, and use very experimental techniques. The premise of this album is that everything seems to be based around the number 8, and it's quite evident in the lyrics. It was released independantly in 2006.
Styles used on this record range from upbeat pop, to acoustic masterpieces, to complete silence. Some innovations in this record include various vocal and guitar techniques. In "Pretty Voice", you can hear what sounds to be a four-part harmony, as well as almost every other track has at least a 2 part harmony. Some guitar innovation includes songs like "Your 8th Birthday", where it starts off with a rapidly strumming acoustic that doesn't appear to have any structure whatsoever at first listen. There are a fair bit of guitar parts on this album that sounds like they must have been sped up, or changed all together post-production. In most of Cloud Cult's slower songs, finger picking is almost always prominent.
A common theme in Cloud Cult's style is the use of samples from computers that when mixed with the drum beat, tend to give of a fairly industrial sound. The majority of songs appear to be based around a drum beat generally produced by a drum machine, as you can tell if you listen, save the acoustic songs, or that start off acoustic. As I'm sure you can tell, this band features cellist and a violinist, and most members In live performances, they have visual artists, one of which plays the trumpet for a couple of songs, and the other plays the keyboard for a couple of songs. // 9
Lyrics: The first point I'd like to make is the idea of the album. As far as interpretations go, I believe that 8 is supposed to be translated sideways, so that it appears as the symbol of infinity, which can have, well, infinite interpretations.
I can be either blown away, or somewhat ashamed when it comes to lyrics. Some of the songs features very intelligent or deep lyrics involving the existence of God and the death of people, where the loss of lead singer Craig Minowa's 2 year old son shows. On the other hand, there are lyrics that seem to make no sense at all, and tend to revolve around child-like themes. Though misleading, they do at times provide a sturdy feeling of nostalgia, and sometimes hidden metaphors can be derived. The song "A Girl Underground" tells the story of Freddy, a boy who spends his whole life digging a hole searching for the girl he loves more than she knows. The lyrics happen to fit perfectly with this piece, as it's got low bass notes on 2 and 4, and give a wonky sound, that fits with people with the idea of a disturbed person. The lyrics for the songs generally tend to fit, no matter the style. Lead singer Craig Minowa is the genius behind Cloud Cult's sound, and can sing with a range comparable to Judas Priest's Rob Halford. Every song tends to have a unique melody, and an equally unique harmony to go along with it. // 8
Overall Impression: This album tends to have a sound of its own, but I suppose it's comparable to Modest Mouse's "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" in the way that it's got a rough sound that sounds unrefined, but in a good way. Also audible is the craziness at times of Craig Minowa's vocals, which are reminiscent of Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock, and Francis Black of The Pixies.
The most impressive songs from the lyrical standpoint would be "Alien Christ", which tells a story of aliens landing on Earth, and the usual media frenzy, and how some are comparing him to Christ himself. "The Deaf Girl's Song" is an exact reflection of the lyrics, in that it tells a story of a song that contains nothing but silence, and how it causes reactions in the people who listen to the "song". At the end of the album, there is a track of silence entitled "Song of the Deaf Girl".
From a musical standpoint, Songs like "Pretty Voice" and "Thanks" have the most unique vocal harmonies, and really stand out for it. But these are just my personal favorites.
The love everything about this album, except at times when the lyrics seem to lack all sense and lose a sense of connection. This is a modern musical masterpiece, and the lyrics are superb. If this album were lost or stolen, I'd be confused to hell as to where the music on my hard drive went, and I'd look straight at iTunes. If I could drive, I would most certainly visit down south and pick up physical copies of all of their albums. If you can drive, I advise you to do exactly that. // 9