- Two of the good ones: KaiserCartel
One pleasant surprise at March's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, was stopping by a sun-drenched beer garden and catching the dreamy couple-pop of KaiserCartel. As the Brooklyn duo of Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel traded off lead vocals and harmonized with each other, they supported the strong melodies by rotating between acoustic guitar, simple drums, whistling, xylophones, organ, keys and tambourine.
As two musicians who hold down day jobs teaching art and music to young children, it's hardly surprising that KaiserCartel aspire to a certain librarian chic. The cover of their debut full-length, March Forth, shows Kaiser beside a bookshelf, a volume in her hand and a contemplative look in her eye, while Cartel perches on a suitcase, pecking out something on an old typewriter. Oh, and the artwork for the lyric booklet was inspired by the cover of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.
Fortunately, that bookishness doesn't lead KaiserCartel into the lyrical territory of Decemberists or Andrew Bird -- if anything, the songs tend toward simply phrased childlike wonder. On the album's opener, "Oh No," a droning chord progression and percussion underpins the pair's voices as they repeat the mantra-like lyrics: "I think I'll wreck you, I think I'll wreck you, I think I'll wreck you, oh no." The few hazy anthems thrown in ("The Good Ones," "Inside Out") give March Forth a satisfying light and shade, and should earn it a spot on your nightstand.
As KaiserCartel sings in "Traveling Feet," "Oh yeah, we got a good thing." Couldn't agree more.
KaiserCartel with The Pillars and special guest. 10 p.m. Wed., May 13 (doors at 9:30 p.m.). Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave., Bloomfield. $7. 412-621-4900 or www.brillobox.net