I already pronounced Paul Steel’s ‘Carousel Kites’ the best pop album of 2017 on this blog back in January of that year (in Swedish only, mind you, https://popgruppen.com/2017/01/20/2017-ars-basta-pop-platta/).
That is because the initial set of digital files were made available to us Pledgemusic backers already in December 2016. We had already waited forever for the album to appear and finally it had arrived! Except it didn’t. Until last week. That’s another year and a half later!
Now, as a listener, at some point one’s patience runs out and you just turn your back on the whole thing.
But I can tell you that this is definitely not that point.
Instead, ’Carousel Kites’ remains the best pop album of [insert recent-year-of-your-choice]. At least if you like ELO, Steely Dan, Van Dyke Parks or the Beach Boys.
On offer here is what Paul himself refers to as “Luxury Music”, an imaginary genre that is designed to be over-the top expensive sounding. Full of instruments, orchestral ornamentation, drama, high concept and multi-tracked vocals bubbling over with Dom Pérignon.
As it happens, Paul Steel is not the only one to be dabbling in over-the-top pop in 2018. Recently I have been agonising over not yet having reviewed the ‘Lucky Day’ album by David Myhr and the new ‘Glamping’ EP by Roger Joseph Manning Jr. Myrh shows his allegiances with a cover of Aztec Camera’s ‘Somewhere In My Heart’ and Manning Jr. even samples Queen directly. But although I know I like this stuff, I can’t seem to get really emotionally involved.
‘Carousel Kites’ is different. It sucks me in, bashes me around and spits me out on the other side feeling dizzy from the musical carousel ride. Dizzy, but happy.
Although ostensibly easy to the ear, just like with someone like Brian Protheroe, the music here is way too quirky for the casual listener. All the twists and turns have the effect of making people around you think it is noisy and irritating rather than smooth and pleasant. They ask you to turn it down rather than up. Although there might be a lot of class on display, it comes with equal measures of crash.
At fifteen tracks, ‘Carousel Kites’ is also an exhausting experience that demands a lot of effort from the listener. But that is what I love about it!
So let me end this review like I already did in January 2017: I love this album, totally and fully!