The international musical duo Cardinal caught our attention the first time we heard a couple of their orchestra pop and folk art tracks from the just-released album, Hymns. The duo – comprised of musicians Richard Davies and Eric Matthews – qualify for a series we started a while ago called Way Back Now – which highlights bands and artists who’ve released a new album of original fresh music 10 or more years since their last release.
So, nearly 18 years since the release of their stunning, self-titled debut album, Davies and Matthews reunited last year to record Hymns for the indie label, Fire Records. For fans of indie chamber pop, Hymns is definitely one of the first albums of 2012 that should be in your collection.
In 1994, at a time when grunge was the flagship genre of the alternative music scene, and a few years before Belle & Sebastian, among other musicians, raised indie chamber pop to new heights, Cardinal released their eponymous debut, which unfortunately did not have the benefit of the Internet to spread their ground-breaking music the way it did in the late 1990’s to today.
The duo’s label, Fire Records, wrote: “[The duo’s debut] ushered in an era of renewed appreciation for the orchestrated pop music of the 1960s, and at the same time inspired and influenced a host of modern artists, who followed in Cardinal’s footsteps, endeavoring to duplicate its majesty and sound so classic.”
Even though Cardinal’s debut largely flew under the radar, PopMatters, recently wrote: “…it ended up becoming one of those hidden pop gems. Its understated, lush yet gauzy orchestration, its penchant for near-neo-classical flourishes, and its bittersweet, dreamy feel made it an often arresting listen.” Whether, over time, Hymns, achieves the same admiration among indie pop fans and historians as the duo’s first release, remains to be seen, but it’s doubtful.
Consequence of Sound, which gave Hymns three out of five stars, recently wrote in its review: “Now facing a musical landscape in which orchestral elements are commonplace [Editor’s note: Arcade Fire being among the most famous], Cardinal’s newest album is worth revisiting but ultimately doesn’t break any memorable ground.”
That said, we can say with some confidence that Hymns, in many respects, picks up where Cardinal left off 18 years ago – lush chamber pop, masterfully composed and executed, and evidence that even nearly two decades later, these unsung heroes of the orchestral pop, haven’t lost their skill. The popular Seattle radio station, KEXP FM, wrote of Hymns on their blog: “an impressive set of psych-tinged chamber-pop with a variety of well-crafted, beautifully textured songs.” If you are a fan of chamber pop, or even just great music, you’ll want to get yourself a copy of Hymns (purchase via Amazon ), but perhaps you’ll want to start first with the duo’s masterful debut (which includes 11 additional tracks not on the original release thanks to Amazon’s special, limited time offer), which was reissued in 2005. We’ve included a track from Cardinal as well just to give our listeners an idea of just one of the great tracks on the album.
Earlier this month, another Way Back Now band, Guided By Voices, reunited the “classic lineup” of the band to release its first album in 16 years! It’s not the first Guided By Voices’ album since that time, but the first with the classic lineup that was originally formed in 1984.
In September 2011, original GBV singer and band lead man, Robert Pollard, announced on his website that the band would release the new album, Let’s Go Eat The Factory, on January 1, 2012, the first album from the “classic lineup” since 1996’s Under The Bushes, Under The Stars. The lineup includes Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell, who also spent most of 2011 on a reunion tour. The new album is surely a bonus gift for new and long-time GBV fans.
Read more of our review of Let’s Go Eat The Factory (get it from Amazon for great price!), published earlier this month, and watch this video of the classic lineup