reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
Cape Cartel characterize their sound as “West-Coast smooth meets East-Coast grit”, and while there is smoothness and grit abound on their debut album, Close Talker, it is the bounce and vitality that these tracks jitter with that feels definitive of the sound. Recorded in makeshift studio spaces around Montreal, this music urges a live experience: particularly on songs that break open into moments layered with unified vocals. The singalong feels imminent.
Cape Cartel feel at their most true when the energy is high. “Oh Christ” begins with live chatter and moves into a groove propelled by vocals and gliding electric guitars. “Skin and Bone” swells from minimal and soft to a growling roll of a tune while keeping a frenetic hum-buzz. These are tracks that spill over with aliveness. This is not to say that the subdued songs are weaker. When the folky and harmonized “The Great Indoors” comes in, it feels effortlessly serious. Dabbling in the blues, “I’m Afraid You Don’t” swings with gritty vocals and a moody guitar to show the diversity that Cape Cartel are capable of.
The four piece band has roots all over the country, with founding brothers Clay Upex and Jake Upex hailing from Salt Spring Island. Clay began his musical journey — what was to become Cape Cartel — as a way to deal with the move. This awareness of space and its effect on emotional states translates into the relatable nature of the music, both in tone and lyrical content. At times spirited and danceable (“More”), and at other moments exploring a darker space (the description of life’s inclination to spin out of control on “Feeling Cursed”), Cape Cartel uses music as a kinetic release for both the members and anyone listening.
Cape Cartel bring unique geographic energies together to create a debut record full of movement, brightness, and a keen thoughtfulness that comes from lived experiences. Now we can only keep our eyes open for the next opportunity to see this group live.
Top Tracks: “More”; “I’m Afraid You Don’t”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)