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Chroma

Cartel

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Album Review

There's nothing new under the sun, especially not in pop music, and there's absolutely nothing new or innovative or even particularly forward-looking about Cartel's big guitars, big hooks, and big-voiced lead singer. That's not to say that this Atlanta-based band is retro at all — on the contrary, it's just very much a creature of its time. Call this music pop-punk if you want, but really it's just pop, and more power to them. The album opens powerfully, with two pitch-perfect exercises in hooks-wise guitar rock, the bombastic but tight "Say Anything (Else)," and "Honestly." When things start getting a bit soft it's less a problem with the music than it is a problem with the lyrics: "Save Us" is nothing but a pile of clichés and meaningless phrases ("Now it's all gone but what it takes to make it real/We're standing on the edge of this"), and there's something vaguely creepy about the football-chant phraseology in "Burn This City." Perhaps worst of all is "Minstrel's Prayer," which actually contains the line "Oh carry on, you minstrels of the world." Yeesh. But most of the songs are much less embarrassing than those three, and the big, tight guitars and cathartic chord progressions go a long way toward redeeming even those. Recommended.

Customer Reviews

Cartel’s brilliant “Chroma” is my “American Idiot” of 2005.

Note: This was posted on the ORIGINAL album, before the new label, back in November of 2005. Also, the album ended after "A". So, Cartel’s brilliant “Chroma” is my “American Idiot” of 2005. That’s saying a lot considering that ever since I first heard “Idiot” in September of 2004, I instantly considered it one of the best albums of all-time. This album makes me question that. There are some interesting correlation's too. They’re both concept albums that make each song wonderfully flow into the next. But one big difference is that the story of “Chroma” ends with wooing the girl rather than of trying to forget about her like Green Day illustrated in “Idiot”. But on a side-note, this isn’t a letter from a fan boy, Chroma has it’s flaws. I’m not all praise, don’t worry. If you had to define it, I guess Cartel would be emo. But that’s like having to put Iron and Wine in the Folk category (rather than über-acoustic indie music). Cartel falls right in line with Panic! At The Disco, Hellogoodbye, Jack’s Mannequin, and Mae. The record opens with “Say Anything (Else)”, an awesome rock-out starter. The first few seconds are spent pretending to be listening to an old scratchy vinyl, which is mirrored at the end of the album. While not original, it’s very effective and not at all over-done (see Mae’s “The Everglow"). It shows that the band cares about taking you in and out of their world in an ironically gentle way. Other bands could care less, which is an art form in-and-of-itself. But I prefer Cartel’s smoothe method here. What’s interesting is that “Chroma” begins wonderfully, takes a slight hit towards the middle with somewhat forgettable tunes, but ends with maybe the best 21 minutes of music ever recorded. I do not, by any means, say that lightly. In the middle of that 21 minutes, is “The Minstrel’s Prayer”, positively one of the most uplifting and wonderfully composed anthems I’ve ever heard. What even makes it more powerful is listening to it in tandem with the rest of the album. The last two songs are cleverly titled “Q” and “A”. “A” is a perfectly collected 10 minute ballad recalling themes from the whole record while instilling new ones flawlessly. More interestingly, the song does not feel like 10 minutes nor do you feel like you’re jumping around and listening to different songs. Actually, “A” ties everything together, making the middle part of the album necessary and not at all forgettable. Like I said earlier, the scratchy vinyl effect comes back into play as the song dims in volume, leaving you in awe of the coolness that is Cartel. This band can only grow in size and popularity. As I do with nearly every band that I like, I pray they don’t pull a Good Charlotte on the world. The Used, Acceptance, and Fall Out Boy paved the way for what I think is going to happen to music in the next few years. With bands like Panic! At The Disco gaining popularity, this rock band has a huge chance to score with the masses. It’s artistic enough for millions to respect and catchy enough for any MySpace/MTV lover to like.

Chroma is a MUST buy!

I am extremely critical of music and very rarely can find an album that I can play beginning to end without skipping a few tracks, but this cd absolutely blew me away. The cd never lets up and will definitely have you hooked on the band! Buy this from iTunes so that you get the bonus tracks because they don't come with the cd if you buy it in stores! Awesome band and definitely one of my Top 10 favorite cd's!

How about a helpful review?

So far most of the review's I've read for this album are all just people talking about how they love or hate MTV and not really anything useful to people who are looking at buying this album. So I thought I would try to write a semi-insightful review. I do have to agree with one thing though: Chroma is an amazing album. Both musically and poetically (I don't know if lyrically is a word), it ranks, for me, with bands like Mae and Dashboard Confessional (probably two of my all-time favorite bands) by compiling an album that has a variety of styles (rock/alternative obviously but also a very unique acoustic-type sound as in Minstrel's Prayer, and the soft background beat of Runaway). I would definately recommend this album to anyone who loves MUSICAL rock music. If you want screamo or metal then you will be severely disappointed. But for anyone that likes bands like Mae, Hellogoodbye, The Academy Is, All-American Rejects or Relient K, this is a great deal! And buy the whole album if you can, because all of the songs are amazing and it's cheaper to buy them all at once than to buy them one at a time as they gain popularity. Hopefully this review is helpful to some of you out there. Enjoy the music!

Biography

Formed: 2004 in Atlanta, GA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Cartel's earnest brand of emo-pop emerged out of Atlanta in 2004, when vocalist Will Pugh, bassist Ryan Roberts, drummer Kevin Sanders, and guitarists Joseph Pepper and Nic Hudson released an initial EP that caught the ear of the California-based Militia Group label. Militia signed Cartel, and the Ransom EP reappeared under Militia's guidance in 2004. The label then released Chroma, Cartel's full-length debut, in September 2005. The album cracked into the Billboard Top 200, as bloggers championed...
Full Bio
Chroma, Cartel
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Customer Ratings

Contemporaries