Marc Gartman – City of Glass

Marc Gartman
City of Glass

Marc Gartman’s previous album, The Horrible Cocoanut Grove Disaster, was a richly melodic and slow affair, consisting of primarily instrumentals interspersed occasionally with Gartman’s comforting vocals. His new album is quite a bit different. Here, Gartman incorporates singing on every song, and by adding steel guitar, the album takes on more of a country feel.
Gartman’s work is completely without drums or bass, leaving acoustic guitar, steel guitar, and piano to carry all the work. And, surprisingly, none of the songs are lacking for this omission. Despite having something of an alt-country feel, there is also a decidedly mellow, slow-core sense to these songs. And with Gartman’s vocals added on but not used in such a way as to dominate the songs and take away from the lovely instrumentation, each song becomes a comforting, mellow affair, rich and quite moving.
I threw out the word country, which will back many people away instantly, but that sound is only hinted at on this album, really. “Lost in Twine” gets that feel from the steel guitar, but the calm acoustic guitar and lovely piano also lend it a more slow-core feel, similar to Ida or Idaho. And while “I Tried to Stay Awake For You, Love” has more of a country feel, made more lovely by adding Sarah Howard’s vocals to Gartman’s, “Bottle Her Scent” reminds me of the best Red House Painters’ material. And “Tower of Babel” is another gorgeous track, with fantastic acoustic guitar and vocals that remind me of Bill Foreman. “Youth is Wasted on the Young” is another track where Gartman shows off his grasp of something a lot of artists lack – the knowledge that less is more. This song is sparse and yet lovely in a way that Low and Idaho fans would appreciate. “Sunday Matinee” is another lovely track, with the piano really making this song and Gartman’s vocals again reminding me of Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters. “The Endless Corner” uses a unique singing style to sound a bit more like a turn-of-the-century folk song. But “Numb” is faster, with stronger acoustic guitar and a much more modern singer/songwriter feel; this is one of my favorite songs for it’s calm but more upbeat feel. And after a lovely, soft instrumental that shows off Gartman’s guitar skills, “Tunrstile” closes the album with one of the most country songs on the album.
I mentioned in the review of Gartman’s last album that he should sing more, for he has the perfect voice for this style of slightly folky, slightly country, slightly slow rocky songs. And while this album isn’t the same sort of melodic, dreamy music from his first, City of Glass does show off Gartman’s ability as a songwriter far more. The vocals are pleasant and work on different levels, and the combination of piano and steel guitar into almost every song gives these tunes a very unique and melodic effect. While I’m not as much a fan of the more country-sounding songs, each song here is lovely, sure to please any fan of slow-core rock as well as the alt-country genre.