27 Rue De Mi’chelle
I would imagine that it’s slightly difficult to make a symphonic chamber-pop record these days without having to contend with obvious comparisons to the music of Sufjan Stevens. Even if you don’t factor in the majesty of Michigan or Seven Swans, whole swathes of indie rock bands have been formed, vetted, and promoted by PR and record label executives in the past 6 years solely in an attempt to recreate the magic and legacy of Illinoise. Admittedly, Joel Piedt and Carrousel are not overtly seeking to walk in those shoes, but it’s hard to escape both the influence and the trappings. Thus, the whole of 27 Rue De Mi’chelle contends with the baggage that comes from tipping its cap to its forebears while trying desperately to carve out its own place in that milieu.
Thankfully, the talent level of this Florida-based group approaches near fantastic levels, as lush, orchestral passages are rooted firmly in folk-pop idioms. This creates ample room for Piedt’s aching, lilting tenor to float, flit, and dance upon layers and layers of beautiful instrumentation. For every traditional acoustic guitar strum, the listener’s ears are graced with a string quartet, a few woodwinds, tympani, and the right blend of horns. It’s easy to hear the work of Clogs, My Brightest Diamond, Lewis & Clarke, and the folkier end of the Bradford Cox canon across this 9-song record.
Unfortunately, this properly ambitious album is derailed by its lack of cohesion. Despite strong tracks like “You Only Love Yourself,” “Where Do We Go FromHere,” and the title track, the pacing meanders too much, and the atmosphere is too ethereal and mysterious for its own good. Elegant folk-pop music doesn’t need an “edge” per se, but it certainly needs something tangible that grabs the listener’s attention. Thus, while songs like “Moonlight,” “Take Me Now,” and “(15)” are quite pretty, but they’re also too cloyingly enigmatic for my palate.
I enjoy the music of Carrousel on the whole, as I felt that Piedt’s tone and aesthetic came across as that of a romantic troubadour, rather than a lovelorn paramour languishing in his bedroom. The melancholy moments are adroitly balanced with jaunty sections – the upbeat sections are never too bright, and the chill passages never too dour. Nevertheless, the mood of 27 Rue De Mi’chelle is primarily one of intense intimacy, serving as a willing accompaniment to rainy afternoons spent alone or in the company of a few friends.