By: Sam Kayuha
Some bands are formed with a mission statement already in mind; common influences of common ambitions tend to bring musicians together.
While a band has to evolve to stay alive, that original impetus for formation never really disappears, lest the band itself disappear.
It’s a rare pleasure to come across a band which has maintained its original m.o. while improving wildly as musicians. The Cartographers are one such band, currently in its 11th year. It released its third LP, Threads, last month.
The album is a collection of theatrical rock songs, so much that it is almost operatic and easy to imagine onstage with accompanying corregraphy. It sacrifices the personal in a way, to achieve more storytelling aims, but the music and the band’s cohesion make for an overall pleasant listening experience.
It’s also an album with a diversity of styles, adding in drops of folk and classical music, which are held together by each band member playing their role perfectly.
For three-fifths of the band, that role is to do the under-appreciated grunt work. Drummer Ben Daly, guitarist Cole Ishida and bassist Jeff Teideken are somewhat of a backing band for two vocalists who are front and center to the whole operation.
But to label them as unimportant as compared to the front of the group would be an error. They guide the songs, carrying melodies and bringing chord changes in waves that the singers ride on.
Pianist Danny White is one of the two riders, one of the two vocalists for the group. His virtuoustic talent seems to be what makes the band tick. He sings expressively and plays not to accompany himself but to add another layer to the canvas of the band’s music.
The band’s other vocalist, Natalie Smith, displays her naturally beautiful pipes across the record. Her voice could shine in any genre, but on the album she takes on more of the slower, more country-oriented numbers.
The theatricality on Threads is pervasive, starting with the opening track, an airy folk number that unexpectedly jumps into the pop-punk of “Buzzkill,” which builds as a twinkling piano can be heard in the background. More piano chops are on display on “Behind Your Eyes,” the truest operatic song whose grand piano turns electric by the end.
There is an intentionality to the band’s songwriting, a pre mediation that suggests it has all been composed out. It allows White to bang away at the piano and holler. It’s the sound of a band that has clearly mapped out its own course.
The Cartographers can next be seen live at 8 p.m. on May 25 at Bethel Road Pub. There is a $5 cover charge. Threads can be heard on all streaming services.