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CD Review: The Robot Ate Me – Carousel Waltz

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Carousel Waltz by The Robot Ate Me is arriving just in time for the May flowers blooming. This wistful and yearning album makes perfect accompaniment for blissful afternoons watching sunshine shadows mellow into the dusk with the temperatures falling; the feel that everything is transmuting around you. Ryland Bouchard’s high tenor is pleasantly askew like a Daniel Johnston that’s actually had a few voice lessons. The album was recorded in Bouchard’s bedroom and the sound is hauntingly spare augmented by cello, trumpet, and trombone for a minimalist orchestral feel.

Feelings are what this album’s about – turning sorrow into joy. It’s a musical postcard saying “Hi, Love” sent out to lift our spirits. There is artwork in the sleeve showing a man with rainbow arms reaching out to dark clouds. Another drawing shows this same man, now with wings, with rainbow arms reaching out to pink clouds. It isn’t a Christian spirituality that’s embraced, but there is a general quest for a power higher. The song “Where Love Goes” asks “is there something more (we haven’t looked for) or is this everything? Will you hold me up, watch me sleep at night, and be my reason to live?” and while Carousel Waltz doesn’t provide any definite answers, the right questions are posed. The outsider motif shows up in “Lately” as Bouchard sings, “we aren’t like them” with “them” left up to the imagination, a smart artistic move.

This is quiet music, but it’s not peaceful. Its mysterious indie rock that doesn’t need to growl and it leaves the cynical irony that’s an epidemic these days completely out. It rewards close listening creating a melancholy so sweet you lay your head on the music like a pillow. “This Love Is Waiting” contains advice that could have come from a Zen Buddhist monk, “this life will come through if you don’t let it get to you” which harkens back to The Doors song, “Take It As It Comes”, from an Apollonian stance instead of Dionysian.

I hope my flurry into Greek mythology hasn’t scared you away. Carousel Waltz is simple yet complex. Deep yet shallow enough to still just be rock and roll. It’s serious, but still fun. Great for reflection or dancing a slow waltz. The Robot Ate Me have another low key winner to their discography. Carousel Waltz is available from the 5 Rue Christine label beginning May 10th. Get it and watch the flowers grow.

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