From Latvia, It’s Time to Discover Carnival Youth

10 Dec

In today’s global music industry, the most exciting innovations often come from unexpected sources. For example, while in the past cities such as New York, L.A., San Francisco, London, or Berlin might have dominated the music scene, that’s no longer true.

Many more cities — from Athens, Georgia in the U.S. to Barcelona, Spain — have joined the mainstream in supporting artists and even creating their own “sound.” And countries that would never have figured into the discussion — such as Croatia — now supplies college radio with a steady stream of really varied experimental albums.

Which makes it less of a surprise that a Latvian band such as Carnival Youth has released a debut indie rock album that has captured a number of ears.

No Clouds Allowed has been largely overlooked by the leading reviewers, such as online publication, Pitchfork. But that’s okay — it took the world awhile to find a band such as Milky Chance. So, we small-time music bloggers can alert you to this band’s potential first.

Carnival Youth’s compositions synthesize a variety of musical styles — from melodic pop-rock to new world folk-rock, incorporating synthesizers and intricate rhythms. The lyrics are fresh and original. Some songs are lighter, but many feature edgy guitars, fuzzy synths and distortion.

The net result is that in No Clouds Allowed, Carnival Youth covers a lot of ground and has created a truly cohesive piece of art. Not bad for the first full release from Edgars, Roberts, Aleksis, and Emīls — the boys from Latvia.

Album opener, “Never Have Enough” — which was previously released on an EP in 2014 — sounds instantly recognizable, even if you’ve never heard it. It’s bouncy, melodic indie pop-rock — with piano, strummed guitar, and synths. It also surprises with several changes in tempo and rhythm, something that the band uses a number of times through the album.

The next song, “Octopus,” is a really fun pop-rock number. Propelled by a steady bass line and solid beat — with shimmering synths in the distance — it’s again very catchy, right down to the handclaps and finger snaps. But it also builds throughout with layers of guitar added, providing a glimpse of what’s to come.

“Traffic Lights” starts out as another memorable pop-ish melody. But before the song is through, you’re blasted with guitar distortion and feedback that recalls the early days of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s and 1970s.

The ninth of eleven songs in the set is “See the World.” Here, the jangly pop-rock sounds a little like Young the Giant or perhaps Goldspot. Harmonized vocals hover over ringing guitars and swirling synths. The long trail-out blends a raspy synth track with some edgy electric guitar.

The album closes with “Akmentini,” a pleasant and jangly track — with glockenspiel and all the lyrics in Latvian. So, those of you who speak the language can enjoy the message.

In any case, this is an album that is both challenging and comforting — leveraging 21st century techno advancements while sounding like it could have been first recorded and released in the late 1960s or early 1970s.



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