Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I have to admit, the first time I listened to this, I was not enamored with it. The songs seem a little dark. All of the songs seem to be about war, loss, and sadness. The music and vocals also have a very heavy, melancholy tone that is present throughout the album. Even though all of this is true, I couldn’t stop listening to it. I have many other albums to review, yet I kept coming back to this one to listen. Although it is a bit dark, I am drawn to this album. I found myself humming some of the songs. Now, I want to crack the code. I find myself listening to this a lot now. Not for work, but for my own enjoyment.
The songs are crafted masterfully, with great instrumentation and vocals. Once I got past my initial thoughts, I really started to dig this album. All of the songs, while heavy, are great. Josh Haden, who is the driving force behind Spain, was a punk rocker in his formative years, listening to Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Bad Religion. The music in Carolina doesn’t even remotely resemble anything close to the musical stylings of those three bands. What is does have in common is exploration of topics that are not readily present in popular music.
The album is a rich tapestry of stories and creative tales. I have to say, the song Lorelei (Track 4) is my favorite so far. I am not sure what it is about, but I am pretty sure it is not a happy tale:
I don’t want to fight your war tonight
Put away all your guns and knives
I am waiting
I don’t want to see the streets tonight
I am so wary and so tired
I am waiting
Although the lyrics are not the most cheerful, it is a beautiful song and I can’t get enough of it. Battle of Saratoga is another standout. With hauntingly beautiful music in the background, this song combines two stories. Part of the story is about a heroin addict stuck in a hotel room and the other part deals with the Battle of Saratoga from the Revolutionary War. Pertinent, as I write this review on the cusp of American Independence Day. Haden, an avid reader, recalls other historical events on this album such as the Great Depression (The Depression – Track 2), the Farmington Mine disaster (One Last Look – Track 5), and post-Civil War Reconstruction (Tennessee – Track 1). If you give this a listen and are not convinced of this album’s worthiness, I say stick in there and give it another listen. Your tenacity will be rewarded.
You can listen to a sample track and purchase the album here.