PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Desert City Soundtrack: Funeral Car

Kevin Jagernauth

Desert City Soundtrack

Funeral Car

Label: Deep Elm
US Release Date: 2003-11-11
UK Release Date: 2003-11-17
Amazon
iTunes

I like to think that I'm an open-minded person when it comes to music, and that I won't be quick to judge a band based solely on the label they're on. But when a CD arrives in my mailbox bearing the Deep Elm logo on the artwork, my good intentions are thrown into question. Unfairly or not, Deep Elm is known as a label with a roster of sensitive boys with broken hearts who scream their anxieties over fairly generic post-punk guitar work. For every innovative "emo" band like Braid or Sunny Day Real Estate, there are about five lesser Deep Elm bands.

Thus it was with great hesitation I put the Desert City Soundtrack CD in my player. Expecting chugging guitars, angst-ridden boys yelling, and a fairly uninspired 40 minutes, I was surprised to hear a piano open the disc on the first track, "My Hell". Wait a second, are those horns I hear as well? Funeral Car, the debut album from Desert City Soundtrack, is a welcome change of pace from the usual Deep Elm stuff that finds its way into my CD player. Unfortunately, the band only lives up to its potential on half the disc, while settling into unnecessary emo theatrics for the other half.

At its best, Desert City Soundtrack evokes the musical horizons of San Diego bands Three Mile Pilot and the Black Heart Procession. "Drowning Horses" and "Take You Under", two of the best songs on Funeral Car, are sweeping in scope and beautifully atmospheric. When pianist Cory Gray is allowed to take center stage, Desert City Soundtrack's compositions are their most interesting and original. That Gray's background is in jazz and classical music is sometimes painfully apparent, as on lesser tracks he is forced to play down to somewhat pedestrian arrangements.

For every song that dares to take a chance, there is a song that mines clichéd emo territory. "These Games We Play", with a run time over six minutes, begins promisingly before leading to a typical wall-of-guitar-with-boy-screaming ending. "Drawn and Quartered", "Something about a Ghost", and "Westpoint" are also similarly bland.

What keeps the band from being a recommended listen are the obvious and literal lyrics. Even on their most poetic songs, the band can't lyrically rise to the occasion. "These two loveless arms sit so simple when you stayed over / One night some pillow lines stretched across morning light / Sleeping on bedroom walls / You said 'I remember why i loved you'", Matt Carillo sings on "My Hell". A quick scan through the Deep Elm website and these lyrics could be switched up with any other band on that roster and the difference wouldn't be noticeable. Love lost is the lyrical theme for Funeral Car, and Carillo is regrettably and awkwardly singing from the pages in his diaries.

Desert City Soundtrack's strength is pianist Cory Gray. A clearly gifted musician, the best songs on Funeral Car find Gray steering the music with his piano driven compositions. When the band chooses the easier way out with more conventional emo songwriting, the music suffers. Desert City Soundtrack definitely has the ability to create a great record that will not only set it apart from the Deep Elm roster, but put the band in a league of its own. However, it will be up to Desert City Soundtrack to recognize and play to its assets.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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