Carbon Leaf – Nothing Rhymes with Woman

This is my first post to use “colorful” language. If that offends, apologies, it won’t happen again. It is not meant to be offensive, and hopefully isn’t, but feel free to tell me different.

Carbon Leaf is a band which has either just hit the big time, or has finally come onto my radar in the last couple of weeks for some other reason. Seemingly by desitny, maybe, since they have opened for Dave Matthews Band in their 17 year history, i was fated to review this album next. The album itself is the band’s 7th full length effort, and 8th release, counting their live album. Finding this out with in the last 12 hours, i had no way to go and find enough of their music to compare sound, so most of what will come out in this review is the type of insight that i would give to a band’s first disc, keep that in mind, Carbon Leaf fans.

The disc starts off with a fairly straightforward alt-country song, hooking me immediately. Alt-country is a hard thig for me to defend, since i am such a staunch anti-country activist, but for some reason the use of a dobro on a rock record is a great (greatest?) thing. Not just Dobro mind you, but basic country song tempo and lead guitar. The impression i got fromt he first track is a young band, sitting in a bar in East-Fuck Nowhere, dirt floor and drunken mechanical bull riding, while the band plays on a cramped, dingy stage. Then comes the second track, and the banjo (see the DMB post for my feelings on banjo) mixed with a pretty basic two-step country beat almost make up for the lyrics. There is my major criticism of a very strong album; the lyrics are very unevenly written. Some tracks are so strong, expressive, and creative, and some seem like cop-out rhyme (and sometimes not). But given the strength of the rest of the album’s production values,  sheer talent on the part of the band, and the genre that sometimes goes underutilized, Carbon Leaf has something special here.

Upon repeat listenings, the album gets stronger. Every time i hear it, there is something i hadn’t payed attention to the first (second, eighth…) go-round, and it just increases the feeling of enjoyment i get from it. I think the best part of the record is the ability of the band to create such catchy, singalong choruses. The repeated chorus of each song will have you tapping your toe and humming on just the sec0nd pass, and singling along within 5. But never in that way that makes you feel dirty like most pop music; instead in a way which makes you feel connected to the band.

Carbon Leaf reminds me of 2 groups specifically, and while my last favorite thing to do is compare bands to other bands, i think it is warranted here. The general groove and feel of this album reminds me of Ryan Adams’ second album, Gold. His was the first real alt-country i had heard, and while i haven’t listened to it since i was to young to appreciate it, ‘New York, New York’ is such a great track, and it is what came to my head as soon as i heard the upbeat songs on Nothing Rhymes with Woman. The other group i think of is a small band based in Pittsburgh called the Clarks. Both bands have the ability to create pop sounding rock songs that are so much more than their first impressions, and both have similar vocals. Carbon Leaf seems to share a spirit with Calexico, not so much musically but in the way that they break the boundaries of their genres to make something reflective of their own personal histories.

Nothing Rhymes with Woman is probably my favorite album this summer so far, but having said that, it won’t get my highest marks. I enjoy listening to it, in fact i have listened to it more times than any other album that i have reviewed (excepting Hazards of Love, which i had before i  decided to review it), but it is not necessarily something i will go back to. I am unsure of its staying power past a few key tracks, namely “Cinnamindy”, “Mexico”, and “X-Ray”. Having said that, it earns a solid 3/5, as fun summer music, but will you remeber it in the fall?

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