by / March 31st, 2009 /

Carosel – Kaleidoscope

 3/5 Rating

(Reekus Records)

Pop duo Carosel have been on the receiving end of much acclaim since their applauded performance at last year’s Electric Picnic. Dangerously mixing music with pleasure, Carosel comprise of couple Michelle Phelan and Pete McGrane on vocals and guitars respectively. The pair’s debut album Kaleidoscope has recently surfaced to establish if there is much more to them than the hype machine.

Opening track -Easy as it Flows’ is noteworthy for its upbeat, carefree melody as it successfully sets the tone for the record that follows. The track has already made an appearance on a Canadian television series, a fact that conveys not only how Carosel are making waves for themselves but how soundtrack-friendly their sound is. If you haven’t been introduced to them yet, Carosel make no-nonsense, upbeat indie-pop music that is inflected with the chilled out bliss of the South of France where the songs were penned and with memories of European summers. -Sun Is Shining’ is a hypnotic and flamenco-infused four minutes of pleasure, bringing the Spanish influence to the fore and making it a stand out track. -The Way I Am’ is a breathy, mid tempo tune that is carried by Phelan’s 1960s-inspired vocals. -Take Me Higher’ continues the Dusty-style vein and although it is one of the weakest tracks lyrically, it is musically one of the strongest with a memorable, textured sound. -Home’ carries the flamenco influence further and sounds as polished as the preceding songs.

With a sound that pays homage to any number of influences as varied as folk, jazz and classical, it is surprising that Kaleidoscope emerges sounding so coherent. -Forget Yesterday’ is as maudlin and low key as Carosel seem capable of, although the easy layering of guitar picking and strings make this song an ideal backdrop for any number of occasions. -Mirabelle’ closes the record and is reminiscent of old movie, big band style numbers and Carosel’s frontwoman clearly enjoys adding a sultry touch to the show.

While the focus will inevitably be on the photogenic leading lady, McGrane provides a solid yet lilting backdrop to his cohort’s vocals, using his background in classical and flamenco guitar to full effect. Both collaborate seamlessly with their backing band along with the string of leading musicians, including Cora Venus Lunny, who make an appearance here. Admittedly, Phelan has a voice of honey, a healthy mix of Feist and Nina Persson with Isobel Campbell’s dulcet tones thrown in for what it’s worth. With songs like -Camomile’, Carosel border perilously close to being sickly sweet at times and anyone with a penchant for music with spiky attitude should skip this and reach for the new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album instead.

Kaleidoscope lacks any strong, distinguishable songs with -instant hit’ written all over them and requires multiple listens for any one track to grab your ear. However, for a band in its infancy Carosel can boast some extremely catchy pop numbers. Although the idea of a loved up pop couple might put you off, their effortlessly infectious sound is likely to persuade even the most reluctant listener. Kaleidoscope is naturally sunny, in fact any adjective connoting summer can be applied to its cheery sound, making it the choice soundtrack of the summer for many.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • Anna

    Sickly sweet pop rubbish. Ideal music for kids, would be great for somewhere like a creche, could help put the kids to sleep. Michelle Phelan’s singing is lovely, but hardly stretched or explored to any degree on this record. Watch the video clip for “Easy as it Flows” and you’ll get an idea of how nauseatingly icky and loved-up the entire album is.
    Unless you’re a fan of Barney the Dinosaur, I’d avoid this one.

  • donal kelly

    I don’t entirely agree with Anna’s comment, I would be afraid that the children in the creche would get so bored they would do themselves damage…..
    In this day and age and on this emerald isle of ours, that is currently going through hard times, why oh why would anyone want to promote such drivel?
    We need to step up to the mark. We are renowned for our great musicians, let’s keep it that way. The hype machine working behind this band and their album is not doing us any favours.
    I unfortunately checked out video clips, blogs, myspace pages after buying the album – what a fool I am, should have known better!!!!
    Sickly sweet nauseatingly icky loved-up BORING stuff alright.
    If you really want to have a listen you can fish mine out of the bin.