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Album Review

The Chicago-based husband/wife duo Grant Birkenbeuel and JinJa Davis named their debut disc after a Coney Island ride, and Wonderwheel takes the listener a carnival ride of dreamy pop music as their colorful songs spin and twirl in a whimsical, winsome way. Recording the album on their own in their home studio, the duo handcrafts their songs using bits of pop, new wave, country, R&B, and whatever else they think sounds interesting. A bouncy little number like "Boon" mixes a '60s keyboards line with a new wavey guitar riff, while a funhouse organ weaves through the country-ish "Charmed Life." There's an enchanting, almost child-like quality to their couple's quietly adult music. Their lullaby-like harmonizing vocals float effortlessly through their songs, even on bittersweet numbers such as "My Fear," and Davis' hushed, lilting singing, in particular, holds an alluring appeal. Utah Carol's songs tend to be brief — 20 of them are packed into this sub-46 minutes disc — but the tunes often are so enjoyable that you wish that they lasted longer. The handful of short instrumentals scattered through the album contributes to the quirky sound, but they also are rather ephemeral. Those qualms aside, Birkenbeuel and Davis have created a charming debut that offers a delightful array of poppy hooks, wistful vocals, and a vibrant collage of sounds.

Customer Reviews

You may love this album a lot and play it often.

"Utah Carol".... the name may refer to a Mormon who gets beat up often because of his name. It could also be a tribute to a famous Salt Lake City girl of easy virtue who entertained soldiers on leave during WWII. Either way, "Utah Carol's" odd band name should not divert attention away the blackboard-scratching sounds found in this collection.

The songwriters appear to have been dared to compose an album using three or four chords with a vocal range of a like, or lesser number of notes. And If so, they won the dare handily. While there are twenty songs in this album, a careful listening reveals only two to three different melodies With that repetition of musical ideas, the listener gets lulled into a sort of hypnotic trance, but not the good kind. This kind leaves you with a dull headache and the sad feeling you just spent $9.99 on something you might only play again to annoy a troublesome neighbor. However, one should remember, violence is never the answer.

On a more positive note, the self-indulgent lyrics here are unintentionally funny. Lyrically, it seems UC got their money's worth out of a $8 rhyming dictionary in a high school-English class-project kind of way,. We can only hope the class was taken on Pass/Fail basis with a easy grading teacher.

Not to be mean, but if you love quality music with range and creativity, be warned: this album is to music what poker-playing dogs are to oil painting. On the other hand, if you prefer oil paintings of Poker-playing dogs, I believe you will love this album and play it often.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The indie rock group Utah Carol, taking their name from a traditional cowboy song, are a duo consisting of husband and wife Grant Birkenbeuel and JinJa Davis. They began writing songs together in 1995 and launched the band in Chicago in 1997. The first Utah Carol album, Wonderwheel, was released by Orchard Records in June 1999. "My Fear," a song from it, was chosen for inclusion in The Rough Guide to Americana, while another track, "Mabel Custer," was featured in the film All the Real Girls. Comfort...
Full Bio
Wonderwheel, Utah Carol
View In iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Pop
  • Released: Jun 1999

Customer Ratings

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