PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Cold Satellite: Cavalcade

Photo: Eric Vandeveld

A poet and a rocker reunite to collaborate on an album of no-frills rock and roll, with pleasant results.

Cold Satellite


Label: Signature Sounds
US Release Date: 2013-05-21
UK Release Date: 2013-03-06

Musicians collaborating with poets is not a particularly novel idea in itself, especially in the way Jeffrey Foucault (the music) and Lisa Olstein (the words) do it. Olstein hands in the words and lets Foucault do whatever he pleases with the music, a method reminiscent of great many lyricist/songwriter duos of the past to the point that were it not for the backstory, you couldn’t guess anything was different here –- an impression helped by how Olstein’s poems for their Cold Satellite project are often more like song lyrics in form than anything more freely-flowing. However, it’s the particular direction Foucault takes his part towards that makes Cold Satellite stand out. Olstein’s words are introspective and subtle, often heavy on imagery. Foucault’s music, however, is as direct and open as it could be. Cavalcade is an honest rock and roll album digging deeply into the rich traditions of Americana: a country rock album that believes in the power of the electric guitar.

It’s a very atypical combination but it works, certainly well enough for the artists involved. Cavalcade is the second collaboration between Foucault and Olstein, the first one titled Cold Satellite having been released under Foucault’s own name in 2010 and which has now lent its title to the whole project. It’s also interesting for a particularly lyrically-minded listener: These are not the kind of lyrics you’ve come to expect from this genre and the juxtaposition gives a particular edge to the music. At the same time it never really feels like a poet’s album thanks to how the words actually act as song lyrics rather than trying to be the centre of the attention. The result is a well-made balance between the two sides, neither overshadowing the other but both making it clear that this is a collaboration between two sides.

The no-frills nature of Cavalcade is both its strong and weak side. When it’s done well, honest and straightforward rocking can be a very good thing and for the most part, Foucault and his band do it really well. There’s a great free-spirited feel to the album, the band play great together and Foucault himself has charisma, and the country twang feels timeless. As a set of songs though, it doesn’t particularly bounce out. The quality remains consistent throughout but it only occasionally peaks beyond “nice” and the album does not contain any big songs that would take it further. The best parts of the album are actually its most quiet ones, like the slow swaying country ballad “Glass Hands” and the stripped down closer “Every Boy, Every Blood”. Partly, perhaps, because they’re the moments where the music matches the atmosphere of the lyrics provided, but mostly because they’re parts where Foucault’s presence has the most command. It’s a weird thing to say, but his is a voice born to sing melancholy ballads to lonely hearts and when the tempo slows down and the backing band calm down, the listener suddenly starts taking a whole lot more notice to what’s going on than when the guitars are on full power.

Cavalcade is an easy album to like. It’s a bundle of easy-going, freely-roaming Americana that’s easily approachable by both big time genre fans as well as those who rarely venture there. It’s not covered in extravagant production tricks or fancy instrumental work, but it doesn’t need to be either in order to be a good listen. Not a remarkable listen, though longtime fans of Foucault’s work might disagree there, but one that does somewhat make it understandable why its creators wanted to do continue working together after the first album.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Is Carl Nevill's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.