Sound — 7
The lounging dewdrops and mellow sounds of Belle & Sebastian found a new home in the music of Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel. Together, they form KaiserCartel and they have recently released their second record March Forth, named after the date that the two decided to make music together, March 4th. Produced by Matt Hales of Aqualung and mixed by Hales and Ken Thomas of Sigur Ros, March Forth is a wholesome dose of fresh air. There is a purity in KaiserCartel's music that makes the melodic phrases seem ungarnished but diligently finished and the vocals of Kaiser and Cartel are beautifully bare. By the first bars of the opening track Oh No, you may feel like KaiserCartel are a repeat performance of Belle & Sebastian, but in fact as the album unfolds, more about the duo is revealed and it all makes an indelible impression on listeners as Courtney's pitch is reminiscent of Nicole Atkins and the calming surf of the duo's music moves into idyllic passages that bolster a modern pop framework. There is delicateness about KaiserCartel's music that makes it as frail as fine china, and their brisk chord movements feel slippery like watching a fistful of sand falling through your fingers. The mellow tones provide scenes of serenity reflective of Patti Griffin and the jangly chimes and fluid keyboards upholster the softly bowed rhythms with roominess and fluffy threads. The airy folk-pop ruffles of Traveling Feel and Blue Sky pamper the senses while the breezy strobes of Season Song and the Indian textured strings barnacled by tribal beats through The Flood show audiences a more profound side to KaiserCartel. The dark toned textures of The Same have a haunting mist while the calming surf of Favorite Song is easy to soak in and creates an intimate setting. KaiserCarel don't feel like an imitation of modern pop but rather a product of modern pop's openness to let new ideas in and change it's framework.
Lyrics — 8
KaiserCartel have a penchant for writing little stories or anecdotes that are reflections about today's world like in Dog Stars. The lyrics tell, Ivan sits alone on the couch / Licking his paws away in a slouch / Breaking with willows on a breeze / Or dreaming of days that used to be / curled up in a ball / Does he dream at all / Running down the stairs once again / Nearly falling feet over head / Stained glass window shakes underneath / Guests think that it's ghostly, disbelief / Guests think that it's probably - disbelief / Now the guests are gone / Ivan dreams upon Dog Stars. Many of the lyrics can be make into screen plays or film scripts by creating a visual for the listener with relatable characters doing ordinary things. The lyrics have a modern day relevance that folks can find relatable and the duo's delivery really connects with their words.
Overall Impression — 7
KaiserCartel's album is modern pop at it's comfiest, showing affiliations to Belle & Sebastian's melodies. KC's music, according to Cartel in a recent press release, is like seeing us in our living room. What the duo plays at home is what they play on stage. They don't step into the role of being rock stars, they show audiences who they are with complete confidence in what they deliver. Both Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel are music/art teachers by profession, but their album never feels like it was made for pedagogical purposes. Instead March Forth feels like it can reach a global audience similarly to Sweden's Shout Out Louds. KaiserCartel really went outside of the school room on this recording and locked into music that has a worldly presence. The duo make performing bare quite attractive.