One thing I always look for when I’m trying to discover new music: how does this music make me feel? I could pass on the most talented musician in the world if the music doesn’t evoke any emotional response (see: John Coltrane). Emotions are important to my listening experience; more than skill; maybe even more than creativity.
Well, right from the beginning of Cantalouper’s Reproduction, I could tell I would like it. The opening song (“Parking Lot”) is a painful story about an incredibly awkward early brush with sex, told casually but with panicked undertones that denote a longing – or a burning need – to be understood.
Along with “Parking Lot,” we’ve got songs with titles such as “1986” and “All Grown Up”; I think it’s pretty clear that songwriter Levi Dolan has got the past on his mind for the majority of this LP. And why not? What stirs up more emotion than the memories of all those wonderful, tragic, and painful events of our youth?
There are resentful notes of lost innocence throughout the album, most notably for me in “White Noise,” a song about finding God – or the lack thereof, in this songwriter’s case – in the midst of tragedy. Take a sample of these crazy good lyrics: “My cartoon sheets wore out too fast, and with them went my reverence; Requests I made were word-for-word the same night that their bodies burned.”
Powerful stuff from Dolan. I love a good emotionally raw song, and Reproduction is full to bursting with them. A few of my other faves on the record are “Katydid” and “You Have to Find Your Better Half.”
The lyrics’ frankness and beauty remind me of two of my favorite lyricists: Joel McCrea and Mark Kozelek. One would be tempted to call the lyrics mopey, but they’re not; they’re more intelligent than that. There’s a calculated and self-aware bitterness behind Dolan’s words that your average mopey teen could never hope to put into words.
As for the music itself, it’s very listenable. Indie rock; shoe-gazey vibe. Pedro the Lion, Frightened Rabbit, maybe a hint of Noah and the Whale, etc. The singer’s voice struck me as odd and niche at first, but as I listened to the songs and settled into the vibe, I realized the vocal style fit perfectly with the tone of the band.
So there you go: Cantalouper. Easily worth a listen, and if you feel it’s worth it, go with your gut and check out the lovely LP. When you first bend your ear to this fascinating album, I urge you to do so with a lyric sheet open in front of you, so that you can get the full effect as you listen.
RIYL: Pedro the Lion, Frightened Rabbit, Mark Kozelek