REVIEW: Carol Cleveland Sings - Effervescent Lure

Kelly Kirwan

"So, tell me about yourself."

It's a cringe-worthy prompt, often overheard in pockets of awkward human interaction (job interviews, first dates, etc.), and even with an inward eye-roll we still carefully craft our responses and Twitter bios for a manicured response—because the question, however clichéd, does provide some insight. There's a lot to be learned from how a person describes themselves, and to prove this point, direct your attention to Exhibit A: Cleveland Carol Sings. The Philly-based band has termed their genre "Epcot Pop," and with just two words, volumes are said about their style. There's a hint of quirk, a shimmer of the uncanny, and perhaps a rose-colored lens to turn an otherwise dull reality into a world of high-definition. 

Spearheaded by Thomas Hughes (whose name you may recognize from other pursuits with The Music Tapes and Spinto Band), Cleveland Carol Sings' latest album followed a month of self-assigned writing exercises. With pages of material at the ready, Hughes struck an alliance with fellow Philly local Gretchen Lohse, whose music has leaned more towards the psych-folk end of the spectrum. With Hughes' dreamy, Euro-pop-inspired vision, and Lohse's sweetly-delivered falsetto, the two fleshed out the 18-track opus Effervescent Lure. And, as their title would suggest, it's an album that glistens. Even the slower, more muted songs have an iridescence. There's an ambiance to the LP that feels vaguely carnivalesque; it's by no means cartoonish, but Hughes and Lohse have created a world of brightly-lit colors, metallic tings, and a wistful sort of escapism. 

The album's opening track, "Motivation," catapults us into chugging percussion. A spiraling guitar line follows, then a cameo from what sounds vaguely like a pipe organ to make things just a touch off-kilter. Hughes' high, semi-nasally timbre coats the lyrics, delivering a line that could thaw even a stone-cold heart: "I saw your face reflected in minor threads of doubt and said / I'll never let you walk alone at night again." The chorus feels like a pep-rally pitch (without the accompanying insufferability), and will definitely wriggle it's way into your subconscious as Hughes repeats, "Give me that motivation / It's such a wild elation."

Then there’s my personal favorite, "Run to Your Bedroom," which features Lohse’s murmuring vocals floating over a dainty shuffle of a melody. It plays like a soothing nighttime lullaby, letting all the negativity of your day drift away as you settle into a safe haven. “Run to your bedroom / Take a long breath and come to / This’ll all be over soon / Make a chart of the stars and the moon,” Lohse sings lightly, and it's easy to just steep in the calm she elicits. 

Effervescent Lure is an odyssey of versatile and fizzy electro-pop, another testament to Hughes and Lohse being one of the top dynamic duos recording today. And once again, their title is a perfect fit; Carol Cleveland Sings are more than musicians—they're masters of the two-word description. And to that I must say: nicely done.