Charlevoix – S/T EP


So a few months ago, I headed to a seemingly abandoned building in Detroit to check out a show that I knew nothing about. One of the bands that I figured out was playing was a band called Charlevoix. Admittedly, at the time, the only thing I knew about the band was that the drummer, Dan Jaquint, used to play with Small Brown Bike. That alone peaked my interest, and while the band’s set that night was plagued by some technical difficulties, Charlevoix was still more than impressive enough to warrant picking up a copy of the band’s recent self-released EP.
While this EP is most definitely driven by emotion, I’ll stop short of defining Charlevoix with the ever-dreaded ’emo’ tag thanks to the somewhat oddball songwriting habits of the band. I think my Dad said it best when he listened to the EP and remarked that sometimes the guitar, bass and drum parts don’t seem like they’re supposed to go together, but they mesh wonderfully. Katy Carolan’s vocals are the same way, jumping in and out of the mix in seemingly random places that are disconcerting in spots, though they give this disc a really endearing quality after a few listens. This isn’t math-rock by any stretch of the imagination, but in all honesty, it seems that Charlevoix’s blended elements of emo, math rock and female indie pop to create a really good debut release.
The entire EP may be solid, but the crowning achievements are the bookends of the CD. The scorching “The Last 36” kicks the disc off with a droning, driving throb, courtesy of bassist Nikkie Margosian. Urgent, crunching rhythm guitars and psychotic drumming push the majority of the track, though short bursts of almost alarm-sounding stun guitars accentuate the state of ‘relationship emergency’ that Carolan’s controlled wails relate. The music perfectly fits the somber, disjointed mood of the lyrics (“A resolution breeds more confusion …No use backing up / Holding arms wrapped around each other / Wishing we were better”). The whole story winds up with an infectious swell of guitars as Carolan and Margosian pour their voices into the final, repeated declarations of, “I’ll never fall through / I’ll never hurt you.”
The other notable track is “Bitter End,” described by Carolan at live shows as “the Charlevoix country song.” While it’s not exactly Whiskeytown or Wilco material, there’s a noticeable twang to the opening rhythm of the track, though it disappears about a minute into things. Jaquint’s drumming here is just masterful, as lightning-quick drumbeats and cymbal crashes add an intense shell to what is otherwise a very nice and controlled number. Carolan’s voice is strong here, especially during the wail of, “Watch ahead / I didn’t mean it / I’m sorry you were falling apart all the time,” and the quick line of dual vocals with Margosian near the end of the track help send this record out on an adrenaline high (albeit a pretty one).
Of course, the stuff in between “The Last 36” and “Bitter End” is nothing to scoff at, either. “The Year (I Lose My Mind)” starts off delicate before Jaquint and Margosian build the rhythm up to a sudden crunch of guitars and vocals that sustain for the rest of the track. “Born Bad Habits,” is a frenzied two-minute rocker, while “Has Been” slowly builds from a wandering lop into another line of crunching guitars. “Falling Forward” sets a steady pace of throbbing bass and thick rhythm guitar early, though Jaquint’s insane drumming indirectly takes center stage for this track.
Personally, I absolutely love the sound of Carolan’s voice and guitar, as her style of singing and playing has a way of making every syllable and every note seem urgently measured and intense. Still, I have to admit that the real highlight of this EP is the interaction showcased by the rhythm section. Margosian’s bass creates throbbing beats on every track, and Jaquint is a complete psycho on the drums throughout the entire recording. For a self-released debut recording, this EP is SOLID. Recommended for fans of angular, rockin’, and intensely emotional stuff.