In her review of Celebration’s Albumin, Alice Severin of the music blog Northern Transmissions asked the question that I have long pondered, “(W)hy isn’t this band better known?” Really, why aren’t more people celebrating the exploits of the Baltimore quintet that makes some of the best art-rock-synth music in the business? While frontwoman Katrina Ford has received notoriety for her work with TV on the Radio, David Sitek’s side project as Maximum Balloon, and more recently with side project Mt. Royal, Celebration has flown under the radar since its formation in 2004. Maybe it’s because Celebration hasn’t quite made the atmospheric, dream-synth that similar bands have created. Instead, they have opted for a path that is more psychedelic even spacey.
On Albumin, the band’s fourth full-length album, Celebration has chosen to take a slightly different path. They’ve maintained the moody psych-synth, but they’ve added more hooks, upbeat rhythms, and even indie pop sounds to create a more stirring, rousing record. It doesn’t cross into the dream-synth world, but it isn’t the dense, almost brooding record that was Electric Tarot.
Right from the start, “Razor’s Edge” is a gritty, buzzier opener that comes ebbs and flows between the electronic-synth-pop and psych-synth. It’s a delirious but wonderful ride. “Tomorrow’s Here Today” echos of the cheery pop of the ’80s but swirled in synth. “7’Sensei” tinges with delayed guitar notes of Interpol but layered with keys and synth of Bear in Heaven to create a track that is part indie rock and part ’80s synth.
The aptly titled “I Got Sol” is a groovy track that has a bit of soul and a lot of southern rock influences. Yet once again, Celebration adds its own spin to create a moody tune into a euphoric one. And at just over 7 minutes, it is an epic, delightful track that takes you all across the Celebration spectrum. And riding on the tails of that tidalwave is “Chariot”, a track that starts of in haunting fashion before spinning into a carnival atmosphere and concluding with a ’90s pop-rock feel.
Each song on Albuminis like an amusement park ride, where at one point you’ll be brought up to tremendous heights and get that exhilarating feeling coming down but then to only be jerked around the bend or tossed upside down. Albumin is an ambitious venture for the Baltimore-based quintet. It doesn’t follow a particular path, but instead blazes its own trail. But where this path leads, no one really knows because each of Celebration’s records have not been like the other. For this reason, this unexpected, unknown journey is why we’ll continue to follow this great gem of a band.
Celebration consists of Katrina Ford (lead vocals); Sean Antanaitis (guitar, synth, and whatever else he can get his hands on); David Bergander (drums); Tony Drummond (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals); and Walker Teret (bass, guitar). Albumin is out today in the UK and tomorrow (August 19) in North America. The album is out on super-indie label Bella Union, so maybe the band’s fortunes will change. Let’s hope so.
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