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Camden’s first full-length album wins my (non-existant) award for the most gorgeous rock album ever, and I’m not talking album art. I raved about Camden’s previous EP for the most amazing emo-style rock it contained. But here, I have to feel Camden have gone beyond emo’s boundaries and into something that’s completely new and all their own.The first thing you’re going to notice about Camden is their singer. He must have been classically trained, and it’s almost opera-style, soaring to higher notes than you would have thought possible and always quite beautiful. The rest of the rock combines elements from the modern, post-hardcore rock with a sort of lofty, atmospheric rock reminiscent of 80′s Ride. It’s complex and changing throughout, slowing and speeding, changing up the times, at times soft and barely heard at others in your face and aggressive. But it’s never pretentious, and that’s what makes it so downright glorious.“Mike, Who is Diary?” despite its odd name (which is sung several times), is an amazing song, with perfectly played melodic guitar, complex drum beats that at times sound synthesized, and just some of the most perfect effects, like the synthesizing of the vocals just to say, “You’ve got a lot of fuckin’ nerve. You’ve got a lot of fuckin’ nerve.” “Is Our Face Red” is one of the slower tracks, but it fades and builds in several parts, likely not where you’re going to expect it. “You Seem Capable” is one of the strongest tracks, and it uses a low-end, synthesized sounding drum beat behind layered melodic and more sonic guitar. And it leads right into “Of Course I’d Try to Save You,” a downright beautiful and soaring song. I love the line, “And if you died tonight, I’d make you a legend.” Then there’s a sweet little number that’s mostly instrumental, the vocals more sounds overlaid above ambient keyboards, a crackly sax, and soft drums.There’s enough power and passion in the softer “How to Make America Proud” to blow most bands out of the water, especially as they sing, quite prettily, “darling, you disgust me.” And “Not Without Your Blessing” has more driving guitars that belay the softer, more heartfelt lyrics. “A ‘C’ ok, But a ‘D’,” in addition to the weird title, has that Ride-ish feel a bit more, with the guitars more textured and slower. And the finale, “Darling, Applaud,” sums everything up, picking up the pace with more driving drums (amazing drumwork here) and layered guitars, the vocals blending better on this song than probably any other. When the song ends, you’ll be left with the singer’s voice lofting out, “When the curtain’s down, we’re exposed, under reel time canvas.”It’s possible someone is going to be turned off from Camden based on the singer’s voice alone. That would be a shame, because they’d be missing one of the best albums of the year so far and one of the most amazingly beautiful album I’ve ever heard. It seems there’s a resurgence in making music for beauty and power’s sake rather than all aggression as a means of conveying the vocals. I applaud that, because bands like Camden are capable of making some amazing music. It’s powerful, it’s emotional, it’s beautiful. - Jeff Marsh
Have you ever been trapped in an elevator with some one you didn’t know? All that uncomfortable silence. All the wondering when the hell the doors my open. Thinking your breathe stinks and trying to remember if you put on deoderant. It can get kind of uncomfortable. So much so that conversations between you and your fellow prisoner may seem impossible.
Now imagine you are stuck in an elevator with Morrissey, Braid’s Robert Nanna and Shudder To Think’s Craig Wedren. Say they had all showered and used deodorant and Morrissey was being a sissy for once in his life. And let’s say, for the sake of argument they decided to record a record capturing this experience of uncomfortable solitude. The result I am sure would be similar to Camden’s Reel Time Canvas. This Midwest band borrows as much from the dramatic guitar’s of Bob Nanna as it does from Craig Wedren’s brilliant piecing of music and Morrissey’s unfortunate yet hauntingly depressed singing voice.
It’s not the kind of music you would expect from a guitar-based band as it is heavily influenced by the soundscapes of such moody music like Depeche Mode or late eighties Cure. However contemporary influence is not so far away either. Where a band like Cross My Heart fails to make something fresh, Camden succeeds. I don’t know if it the more “processed” or “computerized” sound that the band has added to the drums and guitars, but they birth a solid sound that is well thought out and well crafted. Upon first listen, it sounds like just another “emo” band minus the loud guitars. But where many modern bands fail to expand upon the arpeggiation backed versus, and explosive choruses, Camden does.
Their first song “Mike, Who Is Diary,” is the best example. The song reminds me of a rainy day at the ocean. Tragic that so much water must fall into water. But the band puts hints of chorus on vocals, at just the right places, the end. It is as if the curious mind has drowned himself in his own anticipation for the answer to the question.
“How to Make America Proud” has the best written line that has come from modern rock music made by white people in the last ten years. Simply sung through out the series of parts, “Darling, you discussed” me is delivered with a delicate resentment and passionate triumph as if to say, “I told you so. You really were as horrible as I knew in my heart but never told you out of spite.” The song builds slowly, first with guitar and then a solid, simple drum beat. It’s most dramatic moment comes not from a horrible crashing of loud drums and guitar, but a simple drum fill that cues in the rising drama, bringing it to a beautiful plateau and then falling back into the valley of unending pride.
This is music that grows with each listen and is suitable for many moods, but not all moods at any time. It is will relax it’s listener after a hectic day, sooth them after an energetic one and lift them after a horrible one. Camden has set a great foundation with the some of the best, often underrated and greatly overlooked influences. The future looks promising if people are willing to take a chance on honest retrospection, modern sounds and the will to create beautiful music. - Erik Gamlen - Pop Matters