Careers has been a long time coming. It all started with a humble Kickstarter: $6,500 in October 2014. One month later and $2,000 extra dollars, and the basis for an album was lain. One inspired by the Hunger Games. What a time to be alive.
Nearly a year later, and Careers is finished. And it’s one hell of a ride.
Careers launches off with a false sense of security. “Bakers Boy” is short and sweet, with a beautiful acoustic guitar and harmonies between Chris and Ellen. Think Deities’ “Sleep Charm” but with a little more bread. It felt like a lot more of what we saw on Deities, and that was okay by me. But then, the album launches into another dimension.
Chamber Band seems revitalized by the outpouring of support from their fans, and it shows in the album. The album’s second song, “Victory Tour” expresses this perfectly. It’s powerful, energetic, and borderline explosive, filled with massive power chords and a truly boisterous brass section. Their sound is fuller than ever before; Chamber Band has graduated from the sounds of a small basement full of dice and fantasy worlds (Deities), into a full blown force to reckoned with, crashing into the proverbial Capitol with all the force and passion of a roaring flame (Careers).
Careers is full of amazingly full songs like “Victory Tour.” But every song brings something new to the table. “Avox” channels a more experimental feel, with funky guitars overlaid on top of a groovy bassline and echoey, perfectly harmonized vocals. In “Old Enough,” Ellen Winter reminds me of Dolores O’Riordan in the best way possible, and her emotions seep through the speakers, painting the picture of a sad and truly angry woman thrust into an unfortunate and gut wrenching situation.
In fact, the true star of the album is Ellen. I always wondered exactly what she was capable of while listening to Deities. And boy oh boy, does she kill it in Careers. Her voice conveys emotion extremely well, which only adds to the beautifully written lyrics. She’s an extremely strong vocalist, commanding the listener’s attention as she spins her tales of love and loss. She steals every single song she’s a part of and takes it by the reins, and I’m excited to see what she does in the future.
While the music itself has matured and evolved since their last album, the lyrics shine through even more. Whereas in Deities many songs had to be analyzed to find their meaning, Careers wears its messages on its sleeve, and manages to speak to the heart of the matter, whether or not the listener is familiar with the Hunger Games universe. While Deities was set in Dungeons and Dragons by being explicit in its references, Careers is much more subtle in its allusions, opting to drop small hints here and there for fans to relish, while being completely accessible and impactful without them.
Careers is a storytelling album through and through, and puts Chamber Band up with the contemporary musical storytelling greats such as Ben Folds, Regina Spektor, and Death Cab for Cutie. The tales are varied and truly powerful. They are stories that speak to the modern world: stories of self doubt, insanity, troubled pasts, and children gone astray. “Victory Tour” and “Old Enough” are particularly gut wrenching, concerning the “fame” and “glory” of battle, and if wars are even worth winning. It’s chilling stuff, and it’s presented masterfully.
“Ignite,” the album’s final track, is truly stunning. It’s delicate-minor toned duet eventually explodes into a bright wash of colors and warm sounds, only to settle back down into its lonesome finale, ending the album with a punch to the gut, just like good literature should.
Now we get to the most intriguing parts of the album: the covers. In general there are very few covers that I think are truly great: it’s simply very hard to take another musician’s music, make it unique, and have it come even close to the original piece. Chamber Band chose two extremely ambitious and difficult songs to cover. The Wallflowers’ beloved “One Headlight,” and the one-of-a-kind Tom Waits’ “In The Colosseum.” Both of these songs are classics and dearly loved by many. When it comes to Waits, his voice is so hard to emulate and his style so unique that I would call anyone who tried to cover him insane.
However, Chamber Band handles these songs with such love and finesse and style that I daresay the rival the originals. They dive headfirst into the tunes, rearranging them into twisted, passionate romps. “In The Colosseum” particularly stands out: it’s so full of bawdy energy, morbid revelry, and a wonderful rustic nature that one can’t help but picture the band, scruffy and wild, dancing and spinning whilst recording.
I cannot express how superior Careers is to its predecessor. That’s not to say that Deities is a bad album by any stretch. All I’m saying is that it now serves as a stepping stone to a much greater, deeper, more engaging album.
It’s so rare in the modern age of over-stimulation and content-overload to find something truly unique. I found that special uniqueness in Deities, but Careers bumps it to the next level on all fronts. The music is experimental, breaking out of the “indie rock” mold and into a mature and stunning piece of musical literature. Chamber Band has outdone themselves in every possible way, and they can only go up from here.