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.