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Victory at Sea - Carousel

Reviews

Boston Phoenix

The quietly captivating Boston indie band Victory at Sea began life as a kind of Eastern-seaboard companion to Chicago-style nautical-themed math rock (Shipping News, June of '44, Rodan), but singer/guitarist Mona Elliott has blossomed into a sultry and desolate songstress with dynamic, dervish-like power. Their superb new Carousel (Kimchee), recorded spare and stark by ace engineer Andy Hong, was released on vinyl earlier this year, but the CD's out now.

- Editor's Picks by Carli Carioli

>>> bostonphoenix.com


The Washington Times

Just because a band gets labeled as "emo" (shorthand for emotional in the indie-rock world) does not mean it's incapable of rocking. While emo may be a controversial term that gets thrown around all too often, Victory at Sea should be proud of the label. It plays in the tradition of some of the best emo bands, such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Modest Mouse, by combining complex guitar work with deeply wrought lyrics. The trio's secret of success is using distortion, lengthy guitar solos and plenty of drum rolls to balance the tortured melancholy of lead singer-guitarist Mona Elliott's vocals. The result is indie rock that rivals the guitar theatrics of Built to Spill, while holding onto the emotional depth of its lyrics.

In the mini-epic "The Blizzard of '78," Miss Elliott sings about how "the sun it reflected/from my eyes to the window it was the last time I remember us together," painting a picture of heartbreak amid a snowstorm. These descriptive scenes come more alive through alternate guitar tunings, moody bass lines from Mel Lederman and driving percussion from drummer Fin Moore (it's rare to hear such an explosive drum sound on such a mellow record).

Carousel is a moody, depressing album, but in the hands of Victory at Sea, the music still rocks, proving that emotional sincerity doesn't mean boring music.

- Derek Simmonsen

>>> washtimes.com


The Providence Journal

The depth of Carousel (Kimchee Records), the new Victory At Sea album, is in its utter splendid stubbornness. Singer-guitarist Mona Elliot and bassist Mel Lederman, founding members of the five-year-old band who last fall hooked up last with drummer Fin Moore, play sparse rock -- just guitar, bass and drums.

But the band sets its barren lineup in a deep reservoir of drama and blunt emotion.

"The sun hit the windshield," Mona Elliot sings in "The Open Road", "like a rock from the sky. The past seems prettier through a rear-view mirror."

Singer-guitarist Elliot brings a feverish, melancholy intensity to the lyrics -- parts Debbie Harry and old-school Madonna -- along with rock credentials and a gritty, independent attitude. Moore and Lederman settle behind with deep pockets of purposefully off-tune bass work and insistent, methodic drumming. The album's engineer is Andy Hong, who helped Southern Records band Karate bottle up a similar happily lonely sound.

The musicianship of the trio, Moore especially, is so splendidly and unashamedly desolate, it's almost anti-social. The more you listen to these anti-pop songs, these lullabies for the shopworn, the more you want to tune out anything sleek on commercial radio and contemplate the intent of such lyrics as, "I built an igloo in the middle of our street. It made me happy how the walls kept in the heat."

"Lean your head back," Elliot sings in "Carousel", one in a string of asocial wonderment anthems that somehow keep drawing you back. "Try and relax. Hold on."

>>> projo.com


Daily Vanguard

Dear, dear friends, let me take you back to a little-known band from the '60s and '70s called The Who. I'm sure you have never heard of them, but I have. Reason: because I'm a genius aficionado rock music journalist. There once was a drummer who was so thoroughly saturated in booze but so incredibly talented that I dare say, no I will say, he was a demigod. The demigod drummer that I speak of is the drum-set-destroying Keith Moon. This half god, half man revealed his mortality and up and died on us. He has been reincarnated into a charming young lad from Boston named Fin Moore. Keith Moon, er ... I mean Fin Moore, is blessing the Northwest with his presence Oct. 13 at Portland's new hip spot of the week the Blackbird.

Victory at Sea is the name of this band. Hailing from Boston, Mass., Victory at Sea is a three-piece band that has toured the world, saving indy rock. To tell you the truth, I'm not even going to talk about the history of Victory at Sea, because if you have never heard of them you can now know yourself as a lowly urine-enriched puke bucket (thank you very much).

I saw them in April '01 at the Medicine Hat Gallery in Northeast Portland, back when it was deemed cool. I saw a band that wasn't impressed by the Northwest's uber-hip attitude and decided to plow through all the bullshit'n, black-rimmed-glasses have'n, greasy-died-black-hair wear'n scenesterism. I swear to you I saw actual P-Town concertgoers walk up to the stage and drool.

Mona Elliott, singer/guitarist, has an imperfect, but perfect, vocal style that takes you to your knees asking for more. Her carefully-measured style gives way to the occasional heavy noise squall. Mel Lederman smokes cigs and plays bass in the dark corner of the stage, not asking for attention, just doing what he loves and rarely looking out to see what the audience thinks. The band as a whole is a correctly awkward experience.

Traveling in a beat-up minivan, this band tours nearly nonstop. Like their established peers, they work very hard at what they do, but one gets a feeling that they understand it's just indie rock and have heads on their shoulders. The new album on Kimchee Records, entitled Carousel, sounds like it was recorded all at once in a Cape Cod basement.

Like the previous albums, this one is for sure not over-produced but still has a world of creative energy. Carousel builds with tension and sets a mood immediately. When Mona starts singing, it escalates the mood and feeling you get. She's got a voice that I love hearing. It doesn't sound like she's been classically trained. I get the feeling she learned to sing in a basement playing her guitar. She's not trying to impress you by stoking her vocal chords off. Mona has something to say, and she does it in a very straightforward way.

Live shows are where the true magic lies. Watching Fin pour water on his toms and then watching that water fly through the air cooling him down as he burns the drums up is magical. If it is possible for you to go see this drummer, go and learn what the East Coast has to offer us.

>>> dailyvanguard.com


matamore

Second album pour le trio de Boston après le terrible « The Dark is just the night » en 1999 sur Slowdime. Changement de personnel : la batteuse Christina Files (The Swirlies, Mary Timony) est remplacée par un certain Fin Moore des obscurs Robots and Pizza.

Si « The Dark is Just The Night » était un album marquant et qui gagnait en importance au fil des écoutes jusqu’à devenir un disque essentiel entre emocore, posthardcore et slowcore, « Carousel » le surpasse en tous points.

Le changement de batteur est incroyablement bénéfique aux compositions de Mona Elliott. Victory at Sea perd un peu de son caractère nocturne, hivernal et maritime, on les retrouve aujourd’hui, toujours portés sur les climats enneigés, mais plus dynamiques, plus poignants qu’avant, comme surfant parfois comme sur les vagues d’une mer tempétueuse. Le jeu de batterie est beaucoup plus fluide, direct et présent qu’avant, on songe presque à certains moments au niveau de la batterie, à un croisement entre The Sea and Cake et Eric’s Trip.

Le chant de Mona Elliott est également placé beaucoup plus en avant, réel fil conducteur des morceaux, réel équivalent féminin d’un Geoffrey Farina (Karate). Les paroles sont magnifiques, poétiques et très touchantes, abordant avec pudeur, sincérité et douleur des problèmes relationnels sentimentaux. Elles sont portées par un chant sans égal dans ce style, quasi exclusivement masculin, qui rappelle celui de Thalia Zedek de Come, mais avec plus d’aplomb et d’impact, ou celui de Caithlin De Marrais (Rainer Maria), en plus sombre et profond.

« Carousel » est un album incandescent, dépressif et terriblement beau, du niveau du « To Bury Without a Sound » d’Engine Down et de l’ « Unsolved » de Karate. Un disque auquel on se retrouve scotché dès la première écoute, plus que probablement le meilleur album de cette veine à sortir cette année.

« Carousel » débute par un « Third Place » à couper le souffle que n’aurait pas renié Seam sur « Are you driving me crazy ». Une tension lancinante progresse, continuellement matinée par une batterie à la Sea and Cake. Peu à peu la tempête se lève, expurgeant les douleurs d’une relation qui se termine et l’on se trouve sous les traînées de nuages traversant le ciel d’hiver à allure rapide, déclenchant de temps à autre averses. Impeccable, parfait.

On retrouve le Victory at Sea de l’album précédent sur « Bloodline », ballade maritime nocturne et hivernale, mais le ciel se déchire peu à peu au fur à mesure que la mélodie s’injecte au sein des parties posthardcore. Le bassiste de Karate, Jeff Goddard, vient jouer de la trompette sur « Angel », qui dès lors prend une petite teinte Karate dans son minimalisme et son économie de sons.

Nouveaux grands moments avec « The Blizzard of ‘78 » où l’on se retrouve la respiration coupée à observer le grand vide du ciel diurne, attenant les lignes des guitares assassines et des mots poignants de Mona : « The sun is reflected, from the ice to the windows, and antennas from the cars, shot trough the new higher ground, it was the last time, i remember us together ». Quand le morceau devient mélodique vers la fin, on ne peut qu’y céder à 100%, grand moments.

Puis vient ce qui doit être le meilleur morceau de l’album, l’équivalent de la plage terminale de l’ « unsolved » de Karate, des passages les plus aériens du « EndSerenading » de Mineral. The Open Road : « the sun hit the windshield, like a rock from the sky, the past seems prettier, trough a rearview mirror ». Une lente montée en puissance en deux temps, portée une fois de plus par une batterie époustouflante, injectant de la mélodie dans la tension, mène à une apogée gracieuse portée par un refrain déclamé par The Victory Chorus Girls, dix filles, parmi lesquelles, Seana Carmody (The Swirlies) ou Thalia Zedek (Come).,

La plage éponyme, « Carousel », montre Victory at Sea plus porté que jamais sur la mélodie. Le résultat est irrésistible, énergétique, dynamique et touchant pratiquement au point de susciter des larmes, tellement cela nous emmène haut. Victory at Sea n’a rien à envier à personne.

Le climat se refroidit quelque peu sur « The Driver », qui prend comme thème l’incommunicabilité et avance sur les terrains de « The Dark is Just the Night ». Posthardcore, âpre, sombre, implacable.

Autre sommet himalayen, « Remember » : « I know you can’t remember, the name of days or numbers, but that’s okay, cause i know what you’d say, if you remembered, the name of objects ». Le chant de Mona Elliott y est à son sommet et lorsque des claviers débarquent dans la seconde partie du morceau, c’est l’extase auditive.

On ralentit la cadence sur un « Slight Difference », idéal pour la nuit tombante, au climat mi calme mi tendu, proche de ceux cultivés par Karate, avec une histoire sombre et légèrement malsaine qui pose les questions là où il faut. Une autre petite douleur mélodique ferme l’album, « Mermaid », avec un je-ne-sais-quoi qui rappelle le premier album de Purr et un grand verre d’eau noire, avalé par traites consécutives.

Ce nouvel album assoit Victory at Sea parmi les formation incontournables de la sphère emo posthardcore, au même titre qu’un Karate, qu’un Lapse ou qu’un Engine Down. Incontournable à essentiel.

Didier

>>> matamore.net


Pitchfork

Rating: 8.0

I don't get the indie rock fetish for nautical imagery. It's usually not even appropriate--June of 44's punchy sound was far from the fluid motions of naval life. Rachel's epic The Sea and the Bells must have marked a turning point, because since then, I admit to having heard a diffusion of its effects in Louisville-related projects like the Shipping News. But then there are bands like Volta Do Mar, whose knife-sharp transmissions are more appropriate for a turn on the highway than the sea. Maybe Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" and Rush's "Red Barchetta" forever closed that road to the scene.

Victory at Sea argue otherwise on Carousel. The vibe on the trio's second full-length shifts without warning from warmth to biting cold, and on the most emotionally gripping songs, lyrical hints of road-trip imagery are tied to the breakup of a relationship. It's dark rock in the vein of the Afghan Whigs; I'm thinking particularly of the guest vocals of Scrawl's Marcy Mays on "My Curse." Victory at Sea frontwoman Mona Elliott croons with a similar ache on the opener, "Third Place." Her guitar meanders softly with shuffling percussion in the beginning as she sings, "From one place to another, not one word to each other." Drummer Fin Moore and bassist Mel Lederman weave rolling rhythms together, accelerating into a fiery chorus as Elliott admits that she can't repress memory forever.

Elliott's voice also reminds me of a sweeter Thalia Zedek, short of a few thousand packs of cigarettes. Turns out to be an appropriate connection--Lederman played piano on Zedek's Been Here and Gone, and Zedek returns the favor in the company of a chorus of women for the conclusion of "The Open Road." Moore proves his prodigious skill on this song, cycling through a series of rolls and crashes like an eight-armed Vedic god, his propulsion only enhanced by the brooding plod of the bass. "The sun hit the windshield like a rock from the sky," Elliott remembers, her only lyric in the song. Then, the inevitable pause, patience, and the soaring chorus and climax that never fails to send a chill up my spine.

Whereas the previous songs begin at one destination and end entirely at another, "The Blizzard of '78" is Victory at Sea's most "pop" song. Elliott's guitar chimes almost cheerily as she describes her street, buried in snow: "The sun, it reflected from the ice to the windows and antennas from the cars shot through the new, higher ground; it was the last time I remember us together." Two verses, two choruses, and then a punchy melody at the ending that will leave you humming for hours but unsure whether you're happy or just damned miserable. Too bad every song can't quite match that lyricism. "The Driver" builds well, with a bluesy riff and shimmering cymbals. Moore kicks in, transforming the piece to a stomping rocker, but Elliott loses steam: "You can drive much faster than me/ I am sometimes much older."

But the rest of the songs lead the listener through more convoluted paths. "Angel" opens with a muted trumpet, and amidst the slow, tense rhythm, Elliott sings of "wings homemade, crocheted out of hearts" of the other jealous angels. The song cuts short before more can be revealed, but likewise, on the closer, "Mermaid," she warns that "they need water to breathe"-- but the water has spilled out. You don't need to flesh out these curious figures to enjoy the turbulent drums and scraping feedback on this final track. "Remember," two tracks before, might have been a more appropriate closer, though, with Lederman's electric piano echoing like a bittersweet Disintegration ballad. I worry that my words haven't done justice to this excellent album. Just imagine a cold winter in the band's hometown of Boston, and all the icy intensity and seasonal weariness that might entail. In case it wasn't obvious, this is one for the road.

-Christopher Dare, January 10th, 2002

>>> pitchforkmedia.com


Splendid

Initially released earlier this year on the now defunct Slowdime label, Carousel has been rescued from its premature PR death and reissued under the Kimchee imprint.

Victory at Sea seduces listeners with droning compositions that add a touch of math rock to systematic blasts of moroseness. With the addition of drumming virtuoso Fin Moore, who replaced Swirlie Christina Files in 2000, this Boston outfit has come into its prime, providing a melancholy musical backdrop for cold New England nights. Vocalist Mona is a far cry from her days screaming in noise-rock outfit Spore as she varies from dirgelike melodies to despondent phrasings that accent Victory at Sea's tumultuous voyages through the musical waters of minor-key rock.

Carousel's somber offerings range from the emotional whirlpool of "The Blizzard of '78" to the sinewy "Mermaid" with its peppery bass lines and complex percussive work. Mona's imperfect pitch and off-key notes may strike some as musically deficient, but their caliginous presence separates Victory at Sea's tunes from the hordes of monotonal math rockers. This Boston threesome may have an imitative sound that borrows from the Slint-styled school of varying tempos and pitches, but its innovation is instead found in the mercurial messages that spear your heart with recollections of past pain, suffering and eventual emotional resolutions. -- Andrew Magilow

>>> splendidezine.com


Delusions of Adequacy

File Under: Complex, driving post-rock rock

RIYL: Slint, June of '44, Helms, Rosa Chance Well

Originally released last March on Slowdime Records, Kimchee has repackaged this excellent album and is giving it wider release and distribution, which it rightfully deserves. In the world of complex, post-rock bands, Victory At Sea may be the most accessible. To call them post-rock might sound odd, but it's clear they pick up influences from bands like June of '44 and Rodan and incorporate them into an angular, Slint-like rock style that takes on an attitude all the band's own, mostly due to the power of singer Mona Elliott.

Begun in 1994 in Boston by Elliott and bassist Mel Lederman, joined on this album by talented drummer Fin Moore, Victory At Sea have similarities to bands like Slint and Helms. The guitars are complex and driving, and the drums use enough time signature changes to keep things complex yet still rocking. It's Elliott's voice - not smooth and beautiful but kick-ass and emotional - that really drives these songs.

"Third Place" kicks off the album with a moody, slow-paced opener. The song has a kind of swirling, chaotic feel during the chorus, when Elliott really shows off her pipes, but overall it's one of the album's quieter tracks. The real moody urgency of this band is evident on "Bloodline," which soars one moment and plows through low-end rock the next, and Elliott's voice runs the gambit as well. One of my favorite tracks, "The Blizzard of '78," seems to be so passionate, the drums rolling and crashing over light, melodic guitar and Elliott pouring out her soul, singing, "It was the last time I remember us together."

Moore's drumming ability shines on the mid-tempo "The Open Road." By the end of this song, multiple vocal parts give it more of an emphasis, even as the pace stays constant. The title-track is more straight-forward and rocking, although Elliott lends the song a kind of melancholy feel, and "The Driver," a song about driving too quickly, shows off the band's moody, post-rock approach. The soft and lovely "Slight Difference" soars on the vocals as the guitar and bass keep a flowing, calm level. And "Mermaid" closes off the album with a more intense, energetic rocker.

Most of this band's songs run from mid-paced and somber to soaring and urgent. They're never too fast, too heavy, but they're always playing like their lives depend on it, and that's what gives this album so much feeling and emotion. The little doses of saxophone and the intricate drumming help too. Fans of intricate, complex, and powerful rock won't do much better.

- Jeff

>>> adequacy.net


Swizzle-Stick

If I remember correctly, this is what a LOT of indie rock bands sounded like in the early '90s (I'm thinking specifically '91/'92 before indie rock became mainstream). It's music that you aren't likely to hear on the radio unless the closest college town has a good radio station (mine doesn't). It's like Karate but without the profound jazz influence or the high-brow literary references. It's depressing, somber, and very emotive. The musicians set a solemn tone throughout - the guitars build with intensity and then cut out, the bass lines are simple and compliment the guitars, the drummer uses his cymbals, perhaps too frequently, to accentuate a point. Vocally, indie rock vet Mona Elliott reminds me of a cross between Scrawl's Marcy Mays and Hole's Courtney Love (come to think of it, she LOOKS a bit like a cross between the two with a little Kate Hudson thrown in - at least in the picture on the inside CD cover). Elliott doesn't have a beautiful voice, but rather a weathered voice, one that has been singing in tiny, smoke-filled clubs for years. She doesn't always hit the high notes, though she holds her own and sounds real, much better than the over-produced so-called "divas" that VH-1 shoves down our ears with no concern for our eardrums. All told, Victory at Sea produces music for dark winter days where you want to stay in bed all day, wrapped in blankets, watching the snow fall outside. (Chip Midnight)

>>> swizzle-stick.com


Calamity Project

i used to work with this band's bassist mel. he was a really rad guy. his band is just as rad.

now i'm not a huge fan of indie rock, although i do like a few indie rock bands, this cd was something i really enjoyed.

the second full length for victory at sea, i find that it's a moody record. i get a big jazzy feel when i pop this record in. everything kind of rolls along with a good pace on the record, and the musicianship is exceptional.

i definitely recommend this record. it's a staple in one's indie collection. pick it up, listen to it whilst on the road, or even while you're just mellowing out in your room, etc. etc. whatever you do while listening to this record, just know that it's a staple in one's indie collection, and not to be overlooked.

>>> calamityproject.com


STNT

Changement de personnel, disque retardé, sortie, changement de label, ressortie, l’histoire de ce deuxième album est un peu trouble. Il est enfin là dans de bonnes conditions donc passons à table. Victory at Sea poursuit sa quête des sommets pop. Les chansons sont mélancoliques. Elles s’installent dans votre quotidien avec une nonchalance peu commune. Le climat maussade de ce disque risque de vous précipiter dans un état d’esprit un peu morose pour une bonne partie de la journée. La guitare cristalline dépose des notes pas très joviales. Une certaine tristesse perce ces compositions faussement légères grâce à la voix de Mona Elliot. Sur ce nouvel effort, elle s’affirme et peut faire penser aux deux derniers P.J. Harvey. « Caroussel » possède de jolies ballades pop. Rien de vraiment nouveau. Victory At Sea touche toujours les coeurs sensibles. Avec un certain bonheur il faut croire et un peu d’inspiration. Ceux qui avaient apprécier leur premier album ne seront pas déçus. Pour les autres ça peut être une sympathique découverte. (Greg)

>>> stnt.org



Last modified: Friday, 25-Jun-2010 14:16:40 PDT

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