September 27, 2004

The Caribbean "William of Orange"

Washington, D.C. quartet the Caribbean’s latest EP William of Orange picks up where last year’s History’s First Know It All album left off, with five more gorgeously oblique songs that owe just as much to the acoustic balladry of Elliott Smith as they do to the glitch fetishes of your average IDM artist (it‘s no coincidence that Tomlab released their last album in Europe). Front man Michael Kentoff’s breathy, nasal croon is at its most expressive on this EP, and his knack for extracting unexpected chord progressions from his acoustic guitar remains unabated.

The title track is delivered from the point of view of a man who has watched himself get meaner with age: “Through the years,” Kentoff sings, “I began to disappear…an observable mutation: ’that guy’s a fucking dick; he’s going down’.” “The Druggist’s” is a hilarious piano-driven story about a teenage pharmacy employee who gets into an accident while driving the company car. Proper names appear in three of this EP’s songs, but the lyrics are too terse to be read as any kind of biography. Enough details are added to let you know that Kentoff’s singing about something, but just as many are left out to keep you guessing as to what or who he’s singing about.

The songs on William of Orange aren’t as lush as those on the group’s previous material; they get by on little more than drums, a couple of guitars and a couple of strategically placed sound effects. For instance, the title track is filled with clicks and cuts that make the CD sound as if it’s skipping, and EP closer “The Night Panel” is bisected by an upwelling of flatulent off-key synthesizers. A full-length album of such quality would have definitely landed in my Top 20 of 2004; as it stands, though, William of Orange will just have to duke it out with Make Believe for the Best EP title.

--Sean Padilla

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