REVIEW: Pebaluna – Carny Life
Pebaluna is a hodge podge of seasoned musicians and artists that came together to create a pretty ecclectic debut release. Carny Life spans various genres, with style clearly plucked from soul, folk, surf, rock and more. As a long-time listener to RxBandits, I was also anxious to hear their front man Matt Embree in a new project.
After clicking play I am already loving the sound they have. The ultra clean guitar is sparse enough to let the vocals and bass shine through. A choir of female voices join the song in a fantastical way adding to an almost vaudevillian style(with a hint of emo). “All Falling Down” has a killer chorus! The bass line is super present and the track feels epic without a loud wall of noise; just intense vocals, bass, and drums.
“No I Can’t” takes you into a tight sounding room to hear some blues. Lauren Coleman’s voice doesn’t soar across the mix per se, but it’s definitely competent in the band. I almost feel like the bass is more in front of the lead vocals at times. While I like the groove, this song is a little meandering for me. “Sister Sara” reels me back in a bit. This bass line makes me feel an RxBandits-esque vibe right off the bat. The bass stays on top yet again but I’m not sure if it’s completely necessary.
I like her voice, I think. I almost feel like the music calls for a stronger presence. There’s this Fiona Apple/Tori Amos feel to her vocals, and her lack of presence may be due to the production on her voice. I’d be interested to see them live. Hearing the title track “Carny Life” keeps me interested in the range of her vocal style. Sitting in my apartment on a hot summer day, this track hits me nicely. The only duet of the record, “Baby What’s Wrong” is a seamless melody. This is the most country sounding track with some subtle slide work in the background and her voice seems much better suited for this intensity. This song is beautiful actually.
“Honey” snaps me right out of that mood and gets me moving again. This track has some serious country moments with a surf guitar backbone. The violin is responsible for giving the song some nice levels and accents. Also, prepare for a great ending.
Change your dance moves from country to soul because “Hopeless” give you no chance of staying still. Her voice soars over the band in the verses and pre-choruses but gets buried a little in the choruses. The instrumental break was super groovy with what sounds like a tenor sax laying down some great lines. This would be a fun single if this whole album was more this style…Ask and ye shall receive. “Please Me” grabs me right away. My foot was actually still tapping as “Hopeless” faded out. This is another soul-inspired hit with a heavier electric guitar presence.
“Siren Song” makes an effort to bring you back to your chair with this hand drum-driven ambient ballad. The airy vocals are a pretty decent departure for the previous tracks, though I tend to focus much less on the singer when the melody is that washed out. Actually, I may have ordered the songs differently or preferred an EP with more of a through line musically.
Just before I fall out of love with the album, “Sunshine Lullaby” swings in for one final effort. This song sounds like it could be the theme to some Macbook Pro commercial, and the beach-y anthem makes this the poppiest tune on the record. I like the candid ending though, it makes you finish the album smiling.
Overall, I think there’s a handful of decent tunes here that I may have mixed down again and put in a different order. Carny Life was interesting from the get go, but it didn’t continue to wow me stylistically more than a couple fun upbeat songs toward the end.