Do you like fun pop rock with thoughtful lyrics, an upbeat air and just a hint of bluegrass? Yes? Well then, you’re going to love the Ascetic Junkies’ newest album, “This Cage Has No Bottom.”
Do you like fun pop rock with thoughtful lyrics, an upbeat air and just a hint of bluegrass? Yes? Well then, you’re going to love the Ascetic Junkies’ newest album, “This Cage Has No Bottom.” If you’re searching for anything beyond that, however, then you’re fresh out of luck.
Let’s make one thing very clear: “This Cage Has No Bottom” is a very nice listen. When you take into consideration the fact that the band recorded, mixed and mastered the album entirely on its own, it’s downright impressive. The sound quality is surprisingly clean for having been recorded in singers Matt Harmon and Kali Giaritta’s home. For that, they deserve some serious applause.
“This Cage Has No Bottom” runs the gamut of sounds, bouncing playfully between electro-pop and folksy bluegrass, picking up genres like they were free samples at a grocery store. The band’s music is made up of a lot of small parts that wow the listener individually. Giaritta’s voice in particular is rich and compelling enough to carry a song like “The Eyeball” all on its own. She manages to pull off light country twangs and warbles without making the listener want to gag, a feat many have attempted but few have mastered.
That aforementioned bluegrass influence isn’t present on all of the songs, but “God/Devil/Gov’t” showcases it subtly. Harmon takes the vocal lead on this one, with Giaritta coming in as much-appreciated support alongside some very well-placed banjo parts. However, the bluegrass goes a little over the top on “Get What You Want, Get What You Need,” which throws out the band’s tried-and-true genre-bending for something that feels a little too country bumpkin. This same criticism could probably be hurled at “Crybaby” as well, which is by far one of the more weirdly arranged songs and makes use of some poorly placed “dramatic” pauses in the instrumentals.
For all its ups though, this is an album with some serious downs to it. When the Ascetic Junkies aren’t masterfully mixing different sounds together, they fall flat with poorly chosen instrumental arrangements and vocals that stray into the melodramatic. Maybe it’s a problem of too many individual voices and instruments trying to shine through at once, but the balance on those songs goes completely haywire and the music is just too much to digest.
“(Don’t) Panic” takes on an anxious, frenzied feeling midway through the track with out-of-place psychedelic warbles, and Giaritta’s voice is over the top and out of control. Similarly, “Box Full Of Lions” channels some weirdo reggae vibes and comes off a bit like children’s music gone awry. The whole thing ends up snowballing into a melodramatic sound orgy.
The Ascetic Junkies have done well with what little they were given and, considering this is only their second album, it’s a pretty decent effort. Nevertheless, in its entirety, “This Cage Has No Bottom” is missing some of the heart that could make this a great album and set it apart from being just another Portland band making nice indie-pop. ?