Album Review: Cedarsmoke – The Great & The Terrible

From Meanjin/Brisbane’s musical underbelly emerges Cedarsmoke, the indie-rock/folk outfit that commands a legion of discerning listeners. With Jon Cloumassis at the helm, the band is no stranger to delivering lyrically stimulating pop, infused with an intriguing blend of humor tinged with a dark edge, all steeped in an undertone of haunting melancholy. Now, they unfurl their much-awaited sophomore album, ‘The Great & The Terrible’, just released last Friday, July 14, which elevates their signature sound and storytelling prowess to new heights.

With ‘The Great & The Terrible’, Cedarsmoke triumphantly showcases their fluidity across musical landscapes. Straddling genres from spirited indie-rock, the gentle lull of acoustic folk-style ballads, to the poignant resonance of piano-driven tracks, the album is a testament to their versatility. The raw simplicity of the album’s instrumentation forms the backbone of its composition. Pianos harmonize with acoustic guitars, organs blend with the melancholic strains of pedal steel, and harmonicas add texture to the musical tapestry, all the while ensuring the album’s narrative remains at the forefront.

Deeply rooted in the timeless story of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, the band subtly weaves this iconic narrative into the fabric of their own storytelling. ‘The Great & The Terrible’ unfolds like a panorama, presenting characters at the precipice of transformation, encapsulating their fears, hopes, and the profound changes within their souls. Cloumassis further enhances the connection, stating that the album is an exploration of change in all its forms and manifestations, its music serving as a heartfelt homage to the mythic journey of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

As the album commences with ‘For Real’, listeners are greeted with a powerful tribute to self-discovery and introspection. The track borrows the electric spirit of Bruce Springsteen’s iconic ‘Thunder Road’ yet charts its distinctive course, laying the foundation for the explorative journey the album promises. ‘Ready To Go’ continues this energetic exploration, probing themes of death, spirituality, and the varied facets of worship that define our existence.

Distinct tracks such as the hauntingly beautiful ‘Oil & Water’ and the intensely emotional ‘Amy at 13’ rise as evocative anthems from the album’s depths. Amber Rose’s vocals in ‘Oil & Water’ shimmer like a spectral melody, while ‘Amy at 13’ narrates the turbulent dynamics of a father-daughter relationship wrestling with the chaos of adolescent mental health issues.

‘Know You’re Mine’ stands as an upbeat indie-pop treasure that propels the album forward. Enveloped in captivating surf-rock guitar riffs and invigorating choruses, the song unfurls a year-long love story, detailing the doubts and uncertainties that mark the passage of time. Its companion, ‘Go Easy’, is a soulful folk-rock ballad that deftly unites five thematically connected verses, reiterating the chorus that leaves an echo in the heart long after the song concludes.

Cedarsmoke pushes the boundaries of their musical landscape further with ‘Come Around Here’. The track is a masterpiece of emotion, capturing the varied intervals in a character’s life, offering a window into their journey through time. ‘Strangely Familiar’, on the other hand, offers a softer, more tender exploration of the concept of déjà vu, painting a mystical image that captivates listeners.

The album’s lead single, ‘Goodnight Marianne’, is an epitome of Cedarsmoke’s ability to blend lively pop-rock soundscapes, jaunty melodies, and playful lyrics. Their knack for crafting relatable narratives brimming with quirky charm and wit shines brightly in this track, laying bare the band’s unique brand of storytelling.’The Way We Once Were’ tugs at heartstrings as a poignant duet about divorce. It offers a retrospective look into the aftermath of a breakup, contrasting raw, introspective lyrics against the backdrop of twangy, dust-tinged guitars. The nostalgia-infused narrative juxtaposes with the country-inspired musical landscape, crafting a stark, evocative picture of love and loss.

The album finds closure with ‘Emerald City’ and its companion piece, ‘Emerald City (Epilogue)’. These final tracks echo the transformative essence of change, brimming with colour and optimism, underscoring the journey that the album is all about. They don’t just mark the end of the album, but also the beginning of new stories, new transformations, and new experiences.

With ‘The Great & The Terrible’, Cloumassis has masterfully crafted narratives that are intimate, thought-provoking, and vivid. The indie-rock and folk backdrop of the album sets the stage for a profoundly emotional journey that spans the spectrum of life’s highs and lows, joys and sorrows. His lyrical craftsmanship and the band’s musical versatility have together created an album that transcends the ordinary, offering a bluntly honest outlook on life.

Cedarsmoke’s latest offering is out now, inviting listeners to join them as they light the fire and weather the storm of life’s perpetual journey. The band is also set to bring their new music to life in a live performance on August 5 in Brisbane. Their captivating stage presence combined with the enchanting narratives of ‘The Great & The Terrible’ promise an immersive musical experience for their fans. So, mark your calendars and prepare to step into the captivating world of Cedarsmoke’s ‘The Great & The Terrible’.

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