Cartel - Cycles
Record Label: Wind-up
Release Date: October 20th, 2009
When Cartel's self-titled album came out a little more than two years ago, fans of the band were wanting the same magic that they displayed on what may be one of the best debut albums of the decade, Chroma. So when people bought copies of the album, backlash ovewhelmed the album that was rushed and recorded in a span of almost three weeks thanks to the MTV program Band in a Bubble, but still provided some good Cartel anthems, but expectations were too high from everyone who heard Chroma. Needless to say, the band wanted to get back in the studio to get some lost fans back, but were dropped from Epic Records, their label at the time, because of the disappointing sales of Cartel. Now with Cycles, this album proves to show that Cartel was a fluke album and shows the hooks displayed off of Chroma and great looks at what may come in the future.
"Let's Go," the album's first single, sets the tone for the album, displaying anthem traits from the band, but lyrically, the song virtually goes in a cycle (pun intended) by repeating "let's go" many times and that alone really overpowers what could have potentially a great anthem song. "The Perfect Mistake," a personal favorite off the album and off of all the albums, picks up some of the pieces that were left behind on "Let's Go." Although they are some banal lyrics evident in the song, again it's a really great anthemic song and definitely will make you sing along when driving in the car. "Deep South," a song reminiscent of "Georgia," off of the self-titled album, really shows how Will Pugh, lead vocalist, is a fantastic singer and shows the depth Cartel has. When the listener hits the song, "It Still Remains," it is clear-cut that this album is very different from the self-titled and provides great hooks and sing-alongs. "Typical," a song that repeats itself again, which is the biggest downfall of the album, does provide a different sound that isn't really evident in the other releases by the band. "Conventional Friend," a song that can be interpreted as a revenge song against someone that has wronged you, shows a darker tone and could provide as a template on future releases. "Retrograde," the last song off the album, also provides a good template in future releases and shows the majesty of what was on Chroma, but in a more experienced way, lyrically, and blends sounds that could be found in bands like Yellowcard or Paramore, but what could only be successful done by Cartel.
In a deeper look at the album, vocally, it is what you expect from any Cartel album: superb. Lyrically, well, that's a different story. Repetition is clearly evident in many songs on the album, particularly in many anthemic songs, which is needed, but not too many times, which the band goes past. Production wise, auto-tune on Pugh's voice is evident in the slower songs, which brings down what the songs are trying to convey and puts a black cloud on them as well. Creatively, the band shows more cohesion than the self-titled, but shows as weak attempt to reach what was shown on Chroma. The band are great musicians and that will definitely not go away and picks some slack that was displayed on the self-titled.
With this album, Cartel shows more depth, but still does show some pretty conventional songs found on any album. But, with the depth shown on this album, Cartel has aspirations set and could be followed up with a great album. It is just a waiting game to see if the band will convey that superbly or have it fall by the wayside once again.