The Modern Tribe is the second album from Baltimore trio Celebration, and like their eponymous debut it’s a challenging listen. But they’ve mellowed a bit and frontwoman Katrina Ford’s vocals are stronger and more distracting than ever.
Their sound fits comfortably within the 4AD stable, with Dave Sitek returning in the role of producer and bringing with him his trademark crunching, basic production values. It’s no coincidence that Celebration’s closest comparators are TV On The Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs – both projects that Sitek has been involved with.
The album starts off strongly with opening track Evergreen, a sumptuous introduction to the album which you can just let wash over you as Ford’s voice swoops up and down as its smooth and complex grooves draw you in. This is followed by the bass heavy Pressure with another esoteric vocal performance, bringing to mind some of Goldfrapp‘s more laidback moments. Heartbreak is the most commercial moment on offer, and is destined to become a fan favourite. It’s a moving and glorious song that, with the help of saxophone, organ and some arrhythmic drumming, builds to a glorious peak.
A wide selection of instruments are used with the organ reappearing elsewhere, notably alongside a more regular keyboard on the lovely Comets, and cowbells and horns popping up on the upbeat and jazzy Hands Off My Gold. On top of this, Ford’s powerful and unpredictable vocals are also used as an additional instrument at times breathlessly creating rhythm on the likes of Pony, and often just creating sounds rather than words.
In fact the lyrics don’t really make much impact at all. With some breathless drumming and percussion thrown into the mix, it’s clear that Celebration are pushing their own boundaries and that, while they want to keep their lo-fi ethic, they want to make proper songs with real musical worth.
Overall, it’s a solid album that demonstrates that they are growing and maturing as a band, but it leaves the listener with the feeling that they haven’t quite come up with the goods yet. The album has an impressive, consistent feel to it, if you like this sort of fuzzy sound, but the songs don’t really stand out as much as the songs on, say, TV On The Radio’s Return To Cookie Mountain, where the individual tracks had very distinct identities.
However, it’s safe to say that this is a band in its ascendancy and bigger and better things are still to come. Enjoy this album for now and follow what could be the rise of a truly great band.