After having listened to a string of five out of five albums, it is good to come back down to earth; Ceramic Animal’s Sweet Unknown is the perfect album to do it. They are the epitome of realistic, modest, hardworking and unpretentious.
I know I will be backpedaling the rest of this review. “That doesn’t mean,” “I’m not saying,” and “I really like it” all feel like they will make an appearance. Not because I fear conflict and hate writing a negative review, but because Sweet Unknown is a solid album. I received it late last week and listened to it four times. That was on top of a lot of other work I had to get done. So, here I am, on Monday, trying to explain the first sentence of this review.
Recent five out of five albums: The Wombats, Spoon, Methyl Ethyl, SASAMI. Out of those four band/groups/artists that I listed, two of them have been around for over a decade and took their music to a new level. The other two: Methyl Ethyl’s album has been number one in Australia since its release, and SASAMI pushed the boundaries socially, politically, and musically. These bands were ready to find their greatness, tapped into something special, and raised the bar. “That doesn’t mean” that I think Ceramic Animal released a subpar album. Not even close. It means they are modestly introducing themselves to a larger audience. They took what they do, made it clean and professional, and said, “Hey World, this is what we are, at the core.”
Damn. I’m the one who sounds like a pretentious asshole. “Mistakes,” on The Cart, has over one and a half million plays, and “Dreams Via Memories” has over eight million. That is impressive. Their next two albums did not get as much attention, but they caught Dan Auerbach’s ear. He like what he heard, so he invited the five-member band to Nashville to write and record Sweet Unknown in his studio. Sometimes, we all need a little help along the way.
From “Tangled Up” to “Valerie,” the influence of the producer is noticeable. “I’m not saying” that the band gave up themselves to make the album. No. Instead, I am making the comparison to a writer attending grad school to hone their skills. Chris Regan was the first to go to Nashville to “workshop” his songs, during which he worked with veteran songwriters to improve his craft. When the band reconvened, they brought their past efforts, the present moment and future potential together to produce Sweet Unknown.
Although they may not know it until they make another couple of albums, the experience of creating and exploring new territory, or the sweet unknown, helped them raise their personal bar. With clean and catchy songs, they are going to find more consistent play. And who knows, maybe they will eventually move in a different direction, or revert to a past style. However, they now know more than they could have learned on their own.
Final Thoughts: Another review where I say very little about the songs. I heard a lot of bluesy old-time rock, but also some modern alternative, as in “I Love a Stranger.” You get a ballad or two, and then “Valerie.” (How many songs are written about this woman?)
On a side note: I get to see Ceramic Animal on July 30th, opening for The Black Keys
Favorite Songs: “Tangled Up,” “I Love a Stranger,” and “I Don’t Wanna Wait”
Rating - 4.25/5 (It will be interesting to see where they go from here)