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Caravan Palace: Chronologic

If you’re as excited for the reincarnation of the 20’s as I am, then you certainly know the grand decade is only three short months away.  That’s right folks, grab your pinstripe suits and flapper dresses, invest all your savings into the stock market (It’s never going bust!), and head on down to the speakeasy, because the 20’s are back.  But what, what is the soundtrack we might use to herald the revival of this legendary period of prosperity and ruin, of intrigue and crime? The answer is Caravan Palace’s new album, Chronologic.

Electro swing is a genre of music that melds the prominent styles of swing music — energetic brass, the ‘big band’ feel — into something akin to modern dance.  It’s fitting that Caravan Palace, a mainstay of the genre, is the artist to bridge the gap between this century and the last. It’s as though someone said to themselves “house music is great and all, but what if it was… jazzy?” And I’m glad they did.

When I first sat down to listen to Chronologic, I set my bluetooth speaker to a conservative, roommate-respecting volume.  Thirty seconds later, I found my fingers involuntarily turning the dial to the right.  

The album’s groovy first track, “Miracle”,is — as the kids say — a banger.  This opening track carries a sense of optimism, and an urging to disconnect from the technology dominating our world — two ideas that are perfectly on-key in 2019.  It’s a sort of counterpoint to the technology-centric brand of optimism that seems to radiate from Silicon Valley. Being a software engineer by trade, whose job is essentially to build more and better technology, I need a reminder as much as any of us that building the future is meaningless if we don’t build it around human beings.  It’s a message that also comes with a hint of self-aware irony coming from Caravan Palace, a group who uses modern synthesis and editing to drastically reimagine music from the previous century.

Which brings me to “About You,” a song whose swaggering, rollicking baseline is nothing short of intoxicating.  And really, that’s what baselines are about anyways. It’s something that operates on the level of instinct, not intellect: something felt more than heard, a compulsion to get on your feet and move.  This baseline is emblematic of the album as a whole: lots of fun, groovy beats, accompanied by air-headed lyrics of an equal measure.  There’s plenty of cleverness here, but Caravan Palace spends more time exploring the intricate interweaving of melodies than the words that adorn them.

In “Melancolia,”  they turn the infectious energy down a notch and allows space for a sort of tragic beauty to unfold, carrying an ephemeral feeling, like deja vu or a quickly-fading memory of a dream.  I want to lose myself in the stanzas of elegant piano and saxophone lines, but they’re over almost as quickly as they begin.

Ultimately, Chronologic is a rollercoaster, and one that I’ll ride many times over.  It soars in euphoric arcs at times, then deftly pivots to a different pace, majestically coasting into delicate patterns.  While I would love to see their lyrics explored more deeply, it’s an easy concern to forget amongst the energy, emotion, and outright musical ingenuity that Caravan Palace brings to their latest album.

Recommended If You Like: Swing Republic, Parov Stelar

Recommended Tracks: Miracle, About You, Melancolia, April

Do Not Play: Ghost

Written by Alex Shadley on 10/5/2019