California Condors are a blast of west coast flavor. The four-piece tout infectious melodies and memorable lyrical quips containing a bevy of nostalgia, making it hard to stop listening after one song. Their album Calm Carnivore hovers between contemporary indie rock and classic rock influences. The soaring, reverb-filled guitar solos often conjure the feeling of a show at the Matrix Club in San Francisco in the late ‘60s, where bands like Jefferson Airplane and The Doors played. While the California Condors focus on cultivating a full rock sound, they also portray elements of a softer nature – like glimpses of folk and orchestral music. Their foray into alt-rock is very reminiscent of R.E.M., masters of both somber ballads and hard-rocking anthems in the style. The unsigned California Condors have variety in their music while maintaining an overall rock base, assuring probable future success.
The introduction and title track, “Calm Carnivore”, is an interesting infusion of rock with a slight reggae-inspired rhythmic progression. After the chorus, the lead slowly dips into a relaxed subsidiary rhythm guitar reminiscent of recent reggae-inspire rock trips, like Jens Lekman’s “So This Guy at My Office”. The reggae influence turns swiftly into a chorus that relies heavily on guitar. Here, the chords are played with tighter ferocity, more rigid than the reggae style, but with enough flexibility in the song structure to maintain the potential for spontaneity. The pungent rock style of the verses highlights the vocals. The song slowly collapses onto its reggae beats at the ends and transitions.
“Calm Carnivore” progresses quickly but cohesively into “What We Both Know”, which starts out with a fluid harmony livelier than its antecedent. This contains shades of both Teenage Fanclub-oriented power-pop and an R.E.M. jangle. Tension in the chord progressions is built up slowly before each chorus and released seamlessly before each verse. The guitar solo at the end reminds the listener that California Condors have a heavy classic rock influence. The blaring microphone sound at the end reinforces the concert feel of the album, bringing just the right amount of lo-fi into the picture without sacrificing the quartet’s lofty emulation of ‘60s rock.
“Leave No Mark,” infuses rock with pop and follows the style of Beatles. The bouncy lyrics jive well with the clean drums and simple guitar progressions. The song is by no means plain, but pleasant and easy flowing. It is a gentle break in an album that places an emphasis on prominent drums and guitar.
Calm Carnivore is a cohesive album that offers a substantial amount of quality material for fans of folk, contemporary, and classic rock. The album is cheerful without being overly agreeable, both in regard to its compositions and lyrical disposition. The slightly familiar melodies are paired with slight variations in style. This approach allows California Condors to take risks with new music styles while ensuring that their listeners will enjoy the experience.
Calm Carnivore can be downloaded for free on the group’s Bandcamp.
RIYL: R.E.M., Cass McCombs, Girls, Supertramp, The Beatles, Teenage Fanclub, Eric Clapton, Bright Eyes, Bob Marley, Death Cab for Cutie, Malajube, O.A.R