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CITAY / Photo: Lydia Daniller
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Citay

Dream Get Together

(Dead Oceans; US: 26 Jan 2010; UK: import)

Ezra Feinberg and his pals in Citay tread a dangerous road with their expansive tunes. Their guitar heroics and soaring keys are the stuff of proggy excess, or those bands your black sheep uncle out west follows on tour all summer. In short, these guys like to jam.


But Dream Get Together shows once again that Citay may like to jam, but they’re damned good at it. As big and toppling as their music can be—and its size can be overwhelming—these guys are dynamic players, and all the experiments and expansion never slips into self-indulgent wanking. In fact, these guys have grown daring over three records, using every inch of studio space on Dreams Get Together to make a massive sound that doesn’t lose any of the charm or pastoral shimmer of the band’s earlier work.


Things don’t get any bigger than “Hunter”, the instrumental space shot that channels the crunchy, near-metal guitar riffs of J Mascis, but buries their impressive growl under a downright planetary synth solo. The synths don’t yield until lead guitarist Josh Pollock burns the song down with a seething guitar solo, and leaves the tatters swaying in a big sweep of strings. The song encompasses all the strengths of the record, all the honeyed sonic charge that goes into every track.


It does all that without the album’s other strength: the vocals. Each song here would be solid as an instrumental, but adding vocals only further expands these tunes. Citay never reigns it in to make room for voice, instead the singers have to rise to the occasion, and they do. The sunburst groove of “Careful With That Hat” is braced by the group vocals that float, carefree and joyful, over the stringy guitars and shimmering atmospherics. Beach Boys-style harmonies brighten the rocking shuffle of the title track. And “Mirror Kisses”, sung by band members Tahlia Harbour and Meryl Press with Merrill Garbus from the Tune-Yards, is maybe the best song of the lot. It’s a soaring acoustic number coated with thick layers of hazy guitar, and together the three singers make a sound as shining and huge as any synth on the record.


In fact, the band’s sound is so infectious, that it is a little perplexing when they wrap the album with a cover of Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat”. It’s a great song and all, and their version is actually surprisingly simple. Ringing acoustics and echoing lead guitars make a relatively modest sound for Feinberg to sing over, and his far-off vocals simultaneously call to mind the original and the expanse of the rest of the record, but it also feels too slight next to all their sizeable originality. Even if it shows one piece of the long list of influences that led Citay to Dream Get Together, the album feels like it would be better served if they finished with their own sound. Don’t get me wrong, the cover is solid, but it doesn’t measure up to the wide-open theatrics that take us beautifully through the rest of the album.


Still, you’ve got to hand it to Feinberg and his crew. They flat-out go for it on this record, even more so than their high-flying earlier records, and they hit every mark they take aim at. There might not be much restraint on this record, but its exploration always feels under control. Citay can see where it is they want to go, they just prefer to take the scenic route there and, believe me, you’ll have no problem following them.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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