Canasta, an orchestral pop band from Chicago, is really hard not to like. First of all, what is orchestral pop? It sounds lame…and a definition isn’t that easy to write down. However, with six members armed with piano, keyboard, violin, trombone, and guitars, Canasta takes songwriting and composition to a whole new level with their latest release The Fakeout, the Tease, and the Breather. If Canasta is an example of orchestral pop, then orchestral pop is anything but lame.
Opening the album with seven minute “Becoming You,” the slow, dreamlike music seams to sparkle with the synth. What seems to be the very definition of orchestral pop, “Mexico City” has swelling instrumental interludes laden with piano and violin. These interludes, which aren’t exclusive to “Mexico City,” place the actual music, not only singing and lyrics, at the forefront. Lead singer Matt Priest’s voice is, on the surface, simple and clean. But then he hits these emotional moments where his voice is transformed into a rich sound that just may produce shivers down a few spines.
Not only does the band rock at playing their instruments, they’ve managed to create songs with a complex composition that isn’t cluttered or overdone, but fresh and sensical. There are different sections to each song, always holding the listener’s interest with the movement of these parts into the whole. While this means their songs are a bit longer than “normal” (about four and a half minutes on average) it doesn’t mean you’ll want to stop listening.
There is a definite comparison to bands like Death Cab (mostly because of Priest’s similar vocal style) and this band has played with quite a few “big” names, like Wilco, Kaiser Cheifs, and…oh yeah, a set for President Obama. Name dropping aside, this band is worth checking out…which will be SO easy for you since they’ll be in Madison this Saturday! (October 2nd).
The Fakeout, the Tease, and the Breather is an album with staying power. Sophisticated musicianship mixes with memorable melodies and insightful lyrics, and it’s just not easy to refrain yourself from bobbing your head or humming along. It wouldn’t be surprising if these guys (and girls) made it big(ger) this coming year.
Canasta will be playing at The Frequency at 10 pm Saturday, October 2nd. The show is $10 and 21+.