There’s always room in music for more pop musicians who use sweet melodies and instrumentation to gently deal with the difficulties of life, like The Chamber Strings, whose second album Month of Sundays is a collection of 11 sweet, lush orchestral pop songs. Piano guides their music, but is supplemented by a comforting bed of guitar, bass and other instruments, including the occasional strings and horns. Their sound isn’t especially new—the style of music here brings to mind much mellow pop/rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s—but it sounds fresh, made bright and lively by the mix of instruments and how they’re played, not to mention lead singer/songwriter Kevin Junior’s sensitive, expressive voice.
“I don’t believe I’ll ever break out of this mess”, Junior sings on the album’s second track, “The Fool Sings Without Any Song”, introducing the melancholy mood that Month of Sundays is soaked in. Yet it isn’t mopey misery, just heartfelt sadness and concern. It’s matched with a romantic streak, a feeling that, though the world is a mess, love just might work out for us anyway. Come with me, everyone else is a liar is the gentle message behind “The Fool” and many of the other songs. It’s a worldview that brings to mind other songwriters from throughout the years, from John Lennon to Lloyd Cole, and it’s one that’s convincing, because of human beings’ universal desire for love, the universal hope that everything goes right, and the universal fear, deep down, that nothing ever goes right and that the concept of “true love” is a sham.
These emotions and others are crystallized in small pop gems like “The Road Below”, “Make It Through the Summer” and “It’s No Wonder”. The latter is my favorite ballad of the year thus far, a seven-minute cry from the heart, a eulogy for the past drenched with hope for the future. It’s also touched with a beautiful string section and Junior’s aptly heartwrenching vocal delivery. On a couple of tracks, especially the angrier “Let Me Live My Own Life”, the band take their sound in a more rocking direction, which is a nice shift in style but not an integral one; there’s enough power in their slower numbers to knock out plenty of up-and-coming rock kids in terms of emotional effect.
Month of Sundays ends with a sublime piano song about friends and the changing directions their lives take right up to the end. It’s about death, the ultimate ending, but also goodbyes and memories throughout life. “Our Dead Friends” completes the album with just the right feeling; it’s a melodic, sing-along dedication to everyone who’s ever graced our lives, for a short or a long time. It’s also one more example, not that the previous 10 weren’t enough, to show that The Chamber Strings’ music has not just outstanding sounds and pretty melodies, but genuine heart.
// Notes from the Road
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