My favorite group, Carbon Leaf, is back with their third major label record, Nothing Rhymes With Woman, the followup to their fantastic Love Loss Hope Repeat, released in 2006 on Vanguard Records. Over the past three years, they’ve been touring in support of that album, while working on new material. They’ve come up with what is possibly one of my favorite albums from the group, (although Echo Echo, their last independent release will always be my absolute favorite), and Nothing Rhymes With Woman showcases the best of what Carbon Leaf has to offer.
Where Love Loss Hope Repeat was fairly consistent throughout when it came to tone and theme, Nothing Rhymes With Woman is far more varied, and at my first listen, it felt like a step backwards. However, with several more plays through the disc, I’ve come to believe that the album has a far more nostalgic theme to it. Where Love Loss Hope Repeat was tightly structured around the idea that falling in love and out of it again is akin to the passing of the seasons, it came with a fairly dark and somewhat somber feel to the album as a whole. Nothing Rhymes With Woman feels far more free and lively in comparison, if a bit less connected together when it comes to the overall sound and feel to the album.
In a way, this album feels like it should fall between Indian Summer and Love Loss Hope Repeat. There’s a share of the more thoughtful, lyrical songs, such as Mexico, Lake of Silver Bells, Pink and Snowfall Music, more lively, free songs, such as Indecision, Miss Hollywood, Cinnamindy, What Have You Learned, and X-Ray, while there’s a couple harder songs such as Another Man’s Woman and Meltdown.
This is also the first foray for the group with their two new members, Jason Neal and Jon Markel, who replaced Scott Milstead and Jordan Medas on drums and bass, respectively. The change doesn’t seem to have effected the group all that much, although I can somewhat detect some differences there, but nothing overly noticeable. The other three members, Barry Privett, on vocals, Terry Clark and Carter Gravatt, both on guitar, sound excellent as ever – their overall sound feels tighter, more mature and overall is easily at their best – this is something that I’ve noticed on the numerous concerts that I’ve attended for these guys, and it’s fantastic to hear it translate into this album so readily.
The overall feel to this album is that it is nostalgic, looking back to good times. Indeed, the opening track, Indecision, contains the lines: “I face the trail of the old lonesome pine, I catch a glimpse, flickers of brilliance, straight ahead for what’s left behind. Long days, fade away, I hope to see them again.” and “I may get lost but I’ll know where I’ve been.” Lonesome Pine was a track from Echo Echo, and I can’t help but wonder if this album is an attempt to go back to that style – a number of songs, such as Indecision, Lake of Silver Bells and Drops of Rain feel as if they could fit on that album quite easily.
The idea of nostalgia is prevalent throughout the album, and there are two tracks in particular that really highlight this – X-Ray, which looks back to the rosy boyhood days on summer vacation, something that I myself remember fairly fondly, and Pink, which looks at a woman dying of cancer, looking back to the days before her illness. Looking back towards better days isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in this album, it shines, as each song looks back towards good times gone by, as well as some bad ones, but there’s a parallel feeling that there’s more to come, that there’ll be more to look upon in the future. I especially got this feeling with What Have You Learned, a quasi-breakup song that looks at the failure of a relationship, but also looking at what good can come from such an event in one’s life.
Of all the songs on the album, my absolute favorite is Lake of Silver Bells. It’s a gorgeous song that starts off smoothly before everything kicks into high gear about a minute into the song. This is the perfect song to drive along with the windows down, the volume up, and falls well within Carbon Leaf’s tendencies to write very descriptive and lyrical songs, and it feels very much like the album that I like the most, Echo Echo, for much of those reasons. Thus far, it’s easily the best album that I’ve listened to all year, and undoubtedly (and I’m a bit biased here) one of my favorites for the year.
Download Lake of Silver Bells. (It’s okay, the record company okayed this one.)