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March Forth

(Bluhammock; US: 10 Jun 2008; UK: 16 Jun 2008)

Ah yes, the always interesting duo of male and female musicians. Like She & Him, Damon & Naomi, and others before them, Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel, or KaiserCartel, set out to marry the feminine and masculine with acoustic guitars and lo-fi production. And for all you love-struck but secretly bitter gals and guys, these two deliver the goods on their debut, March Forth.  While there aren’t many weak links on here, KaiserCartel hit all the right notes when Kaiser takes command of the mic with her authoritative, gorgeous voice. In particular, she elevates the already musically perfect “Oh No”, which features an interesting use of detuned guitars, and the poppy “The Good Ones” to another level whenever she opens her mouth. And much of the same goes for “Blue Sky” and “Okay”.

But when Cartel takes the lead, he doesn’t quite reach the same heights. “Traveling Feet” isn’t necessarily bad, but Cartel just sounds better when he loses the gentle, dreamy vocals. And he does just that on “The Flood”, the song of a soured man backed by a steady beat and a melancholy violin. So what happens when they share time in the booth and mesh their vocals? Well, you get a beautiful song like “Inside Out”, that’s what. They rarely take the duet approach, though, except on some choruses here and there. Perhaps some more time together on the mic would have helped strengthen tracks like “Traveling Feet”. Even with that slight misstep and some other cuts that fail to leave an impression, KaiserCartel still deserve some attention. They might only be re-shaping the wheel with March Forth, but they do it a damn fine job of it.


Weekly newspaper reporter by day, music reviewer by night (OK, and by day, too). When he's not writing for PopMatters, Andrew spends most of his time at online magazine Prefix and hip-hop site Potholes In My Blog.

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