June 24, 2005

The Robot Ate Me "Carousel Waltz"

Following on the heels of the recent reissue of last year's excellent On Vacation, The Robot Ate Me's latest offering Carousel Waltz, is a step back musically and a step forward lyrically. On Vacation was an interesting concept; it was an anti-war commentary, as well as a statement about the role of religion in society, and the lyrics were paired up with some unique, fascinating musical accompaniment. Many of the songs had a Big Band melody, making his songs both otherworldly and nostalgic. The album's biggest flaw was its political slant; writing political music is tricky business, and the songs often fell victim to mistaking patently offensive statements for social commentary.

With Carousel Waltz, The Robot Ate Me mastermind Ryland Bouchard has wisely eschewed his social commentary, opting instead for an album of love/relationship songs. He's also restrained in making grand musical gestures, so those expecting a continuation of the Big Band tendencies will be disappointed. For most of Carousel Waltz, it's just Bouchard and his guitar, a format that's somewhat shocking in comparison to his previous record. There are occasional flourishes of interesting musical ideas, such as the unique drum machine/flute/accordian combination on "Bad Feelings" and the brass backing and choral accompaniment on "Just One Girl," but the album's main formula is merely a boy and his guitar.

Truth be told, the songs on Carousel Waltz don't need any additional accompaniment. Bouchard's songwriting is simple and innocent, any kind of grand backing would simply detract from the heartfelt nature of the songs. His songs cover the spectrum of love and being in love, from reassuring the pleasure of breaking from fear and stating how you feel ("Regret"), reaffirming his need for his lover ("Hi, Love"), to simply telling his lover that he misses her ("Just One Girl"). Bouchard's singing is simple and innocent--occasionally reminiscent of Clem Snide's Eef Barzelay--and his songwriting even moreso, and this combination makes his statements much more powerful and heartfelt. When his voice cracks into an uncomfortable falsetto on "Just One Girl" and "Bad Feelings," it's quite endearing, because he's sacrificing singing ability for sincerity.

Carousel Waltz is easily one of the most beautiful records so far this year. It's simple, it's touching, it's innocent and it's charming. While Bouchard's previous work might have raised interest in his musical composition, Carousel Waltz highlights his lyrical acumen and it shows that he's definitely one of today's better songwriters. For those of you in love or those wanting to simply feel the feeling of feeling love, then Carousel Waltz is an album that deserves your attention.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.therobotateme.com
Label Website: http://www.5rc.com

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