When Matt from Kids with Torches first contacted me, we talked about a lot of music– music that pertained to theirs and that didn’t. It become clear early on that Matt is a fan of music, first and foremost; I’ve got a lot of respect for his taste and his influences. And I pretty quickly fell in love with the first song I heard of theirs, “Embers”– the longing, the driving pulse of the song, Jon Taylor’s killer vocals, and the electro-pop elements– Postal Service-y, but at once, very much warm pop music. I wrote about it here– I was impressed with it, and more importantly, as I’ve come to know the track better, I find it to be a very peaceful song. It holds up upon repeat listenings.
The only trick about writing a review of the entire CD? Between then and now, I’d say (and I hope he wouldn’t disagree too much) that Matt and I have become friends, occasionally chatting about things other than his band– and I’ve done this long enough to know that not everyone out there right now is as nice as the Kids with Torches guys. So what’s the problem? Nice guys, great first effort? The problem is figuring out how to write an objective review. I wanted to do this, as I told Matt, “right”. And yesterday, it all clicked into place: I know exactly why everyone needs to hear this record.
One of my new favorite pieces of memorabilia– up with the rest of my cool music stuff
This is a record that belongs in the car. I’ve always said that what I’m listening to in the car is a good barometer for where my tastes are, because I feel like that’s the optimal listening experience: surrounded by life, new view every few seconds, wind or no wind, rain or sun. With the digitization of music (and with this record feeling so electronic), it didn’t cross my mind that, while it sounded good coming out of computer speakers, that I was listening to this in the wrong setting. It may feel like a ‘new’ record because of the computers involved in making it, but the elements that make Carried Over Trees a record to go back to are the classics– the melodies, the way the vocals come together perfectly at the right moments, soaring guitar overlays, and a unity that’s hard to find on a debut record.
The last track, “All Was Still,” has the same vocal effects as Kenna’s “Hellbent,” a song I’ve loved since it came out. (If you haven’t heard this song, or only vaguely remember it, I recommend you jet over here to Youtube for a minute and refresh your memory.) The soft warbling vocals on, “Send in the army/ Send in the guards/ I’m ready now, with warning/ I’m ready now,” create tension against a bright keyboard line, but the lyrics and music don’t fight each other; by the time the drums come in and stitch the rest of the song together, the atmosphere has already been set, and the lyrics become a mantra, something to chant. This song also illustrates how Kids with Torches use restraint: it would be easy to build up and keep that intensity up throughout the song. But they know when to drop back, and how that kind of quiet and reflection creates a different effect. I love the last, “All is still” after all of the accompaniment has backed out– it’s eery, ghost-like.
Matt uses the word “cinematic” to describe their music, and I wish I could do better than that, but I can’t. It seems as though Carried Over Trees guides the listener on a dreamy journey; the disk feels more like an observation of the emotions surrounding the journey than a blueprint of the emotions themselves. This makes the songs easy to relate to but also good background music; it seems to create a drama in the listener that may or may not have been there before the record came on. Some of my favorite lyrics on the disk come from “The Survivalist”– (and these could be poorly transcribed: I’m trying to include all of my favorite lines but I always run the risk of misquoting)
It’s been a long time since you’ve seen the light reflected
The smile, he says, has been the only face for miles
They say they came out here in a search for something deeper
Then they left behind, so he tells her what to find … to live, not just survive
It’s accompanied by a fast shuffling drum beat, but a slow rising keyboard; again, the marriage of the two different styles seems to elevate the song to being more than regular electronic pop, which has a reputation for being cold. By bringing together so many competing elements, Kids with Torches have created a captivating record.
If I had to pick a favorite song, it’s “Reconfigured”– with a frantic pace at the beginning a drum beat that’s not predictable, the song feels scattered and tense until the chorus, “Until you come back/ Until you come back”. With lines like, “We fall in love until it hurts to breathe,” this song is full of great moments, but they all come to a peak in the way the vocals overlap and strive in the chorus. The music smooths out– which I’m not sure how to put better, but I think that makes sense– and it just feels like such a relief. There’s so much drama in these songs, and Kids with Torches know how to use that to their advantage.
You can listen to the entire EP– or download it for free, for crying out loud– at their Bandcamp, here. I’ll put it up here to stream, too, in case you want to give it a quick test drive before going over and checking them out. I would recommend burning the files to CD and making sure to get it in your car, though– I feel like that’s the best way to listen to it.
CATCH KIDS WITH TORCHES ONLINE: