The Casket Lottery – Moving Mountains

The Casket Lottery
Moving Mountains

I hadn’t actually heard of The Casket Lottery until moving to Denver. Apparently, this Kansas City band plays here often, but I missed all their shows, even the times they opened for big name bands. So why did I buy their new album (which, at 28 minutes, I would call an EP but they call a full-length – tough call)? I guess it was out of name recognition. Let that be a lesson to you indie bands out there: get your name out, and people will buy your album strictly out of saturation.
So The Casket Lottery are probably best described as an emo band. Not that that tells you much. At times sounding similar to the quirky nature of Piebald, at times more melodic ala the old-school Mineral-style emo, at times more intense and shouty, ala Cross My Heart’s louder moments. With former members of Coalesce, there’s even a little of that harder sound as well. But that’s not to say this album sounds entirely familiar. These guys mix in some complex and intricate drumwork with two or three vocalists and manage to sound unique if a bit peculiar, feeling a bit like the emo-rock of a few years ago, kind of the vein of Braid. It’s almost as if they are trying to come at things from a looser, more free perspective.
“A Dead Dear” has elements of all the bands mentioned above – chugging bass, driving guitars against melodic guitar, plenty of high-hats, and those odd, off-kilter vocals that are often sung well and often sung completely wrong. “Rip Van Winkle” has a more disjointed feel, the rhythm often changing and weird tape loops mixed into the background. It’s actually a very cool song, and it flows in a strange sort of way. The multiple vocals here work very well. Then “Vista Point” gets pretty, with more bell-like guitars and getting pretty quiet in parts. They even use tambourines or bells. But then the next track, “Jealousy on Tap,” starts off loud and shouted, with chaotic bursts of guitar. It’s not quite so fast throughout, but it definitely picks up the pace and throws out even harsher vocals, with the backing vocals shouted. This song rocks hard, and it’s probably my favorite. Things get a bit more somber, with some great bass lines, on the next track, and then “Ancient Injury” picks things up a bit. This song just sort of peters off into nothing and then comes back in at an entirely different point, with some great guitar, almost a different song, and it goes right into “Stolen Honda,” a kind of disjointed song that just doesn’t have enough melodicism for me. It also throws in the Paul Simon line, “I can call you Betty, and Betty when you call me, you can call me Al.” How weird! Then “Keep Searching” reminds me why I love The Get Up Kids’ first album so much, just rocking, with vocals that aren’t great but are damn personal and feeling, and some awesome guitar. In fact, the off-kilter emo-rock of The Get Up Kids’ early stuff is peppered throughout these songs, even on the more acoustic and changing “Optimist Honor Role,” which finishes off the album on a prettier and tighter note, even if it does just sort of fade off while they’re still singing.
The Casket Lottery have several albums out, and I’m still trying to decide if I enjoyed this album enough to pick up all the others. I expect that repeated listens will get me a bit more used to the changing rhythms and imprecise vocals. I certainly like their style and their direction, and I won’t miss them next time they’re in town. And the artwork (I’m a sucker for Japanese art like this) is pretty stellar, too.