Rainer Maria is a band that crept up on me. I had owned their most recent full-length, Look Now Look Again, for about 5 months before I gave it a fair shake, since the first few listens failed to inspire further investment of my time.
Well, I was wrong about the first few listens. I must have been preoccupied with school that week, or in a bad mood, or whatever. After pulling Look Now Look Again out a few months ago, I was hooked. There’s just something about Caithlin Demarrais’s voice that really resonates with me. It’s not a perfect voice—she doesn’t have perfect pitch. Which is why the moments when she really opens up on Look Now Look Again seem so sincere: It’s imprecise, it’s impassioned, it’s human.
The newly-released three song CD-only EP Atlantic, unfortunately, represents what appears to be a more restrained Rainer Maria. The soft, “lull-you-into-a-groove” drumming and pop-song-guitar-picking and low-key vocals by Demarrais are here, but missing are those infrequent yet pivotal moments where the wheels fall off and the band goes for broke that make Look Now Look Again so satisfying. The third and final track “Soul Singer,” comes closest, with a propulsive rhythm section and near-constant drone from the guitar (or is it a keyboard?). Missing too are the equal-footing, equal-volume secondary vocals from guitarist-singer Kyle Fischer. Here, he’s relegated strictly to backing-vocals and chief harmonizer status, which is a shame.
It also doesn’t help that the title track’s chorus possesses a chord progression overly suggestive of one of Look Now Look Again‘s standout tracks, “The Reason the Night Is Long”. I even catch myself singing the words to the latter song to myself while the former is playing.
Further vexing is the fact that Atlantic, only three songs and 11 minutes long, is a CD-only release, and as such comes with a price tag somewhere between $5 and $7. Ugh.
So I guess the final word is this: Atlantic is a solid piece of the pop-emo music (with a welcome emphasis on the pop and jangle) that the kids love today, even if it’s a little disappointing in the wake of recent prior efforts. If you’re new to Rainer Maria, then, this isn’t your best place to start; but if you’re already familiar with their work, you could do a lot worse.
Polyvinyl’s website says of Atlantic: “Rainer Maria’s new, three song CD EP reveals the scope of their talent and vision”. Hmmmmmmm…. Maybe. Still, I’m hoping for and expecting so much more.
// Notes from the Road
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