Gavin Castleton - Home
Record Label: Five One Inc.
Release Date: February 13, 2009
I honestly don't know what to make of this album. I have nonetheless tried to explain my impressions of this album, which its press release calls “A 'popera' sweling with love, loss, and zombies.” I do, however, feel that words cannot completely qualify this album. Inspired by the devastation of a six-year relationship, this is more than just a heartbreak album. It's an adventure of unbelievable proportions, to Castleton's own private hell and back.
The opening track, “Bugguts,” begins bluntly with Castleton faux-rapping “Right now I wish I was a cockroach.” The French Horns and strings swell as Castleton's emotion builds from intensity to a surf-rock release. The orchestra continues to make this sound more and more like Razia's Shadow by the second. The surf vibe continues on into the following track, which can't help but sound generic.
The album constantly toggles between sweeping orchestras, straightforward pop-rock, and electronic nonsense. To be completely honest, this is among the most eclectic albums I've ever heard in my life. Parts of it recall Michael Jackson, but every now and again, the guitar and the vocals align to sound unmistakably like John Mayer. This all works surprisingly well except for his forays in to electronic psychodisco, which are consistently the worst parts. “Stampete” sounds like a bizarre, superpop mash-up of the Bee Gees and Portugal. The Man. “The Onslaught” is an ambient narrative that never goes anywhere and really just devolves into Reznorian noise, completely losing track of the dialogue that lies beneath.
Lauren Coleman's airy soprano appears on seven tracks, and really can't stand up to Castleton's powerful, smooth voice. If Castleton's vocals were chocolate cake, Coleman's would be sprinkles – unnecesary, but heavily sweetening (which is probably the intended effect). “The Wall Starts To Give” features Coleman singing ethereally against a dungeon scene. It's the same kind of anti-musical weirdness that works so well so many other places on the album, but somehow falls short here.
Castleon goes Justin Timberlake on "Layers" and Beck on "Unparallel Rabbits" – possibly the best on the entire album. "Oregon..." is a ballad that recalls Conor Oberst slowly morphing into the devil. Again, Castleton's vocals are intense and heartfelt, and as his emotion builds, he constantly impresses with vocal control and versatility. “...Beetlemeet” is among the most ridiculous songs I've ever heard in my life, as a pair of singing ladybugs save Castleton from himself. The instrumentation finally picks up on “The Human Torch,” a sharp reprieve from the over-ambient noise that has pervaded most of the album. Tighter songs would have made it a much easier “pop in and press play” album. But that doesn't seem to be Castleton's intent.
Extremely blunt lyrics, such as “I dare you to get fat with me,” juxtapose humor with heartfelt laments such as “we broke our love on the black-and-white chessboard.” Fourth-wall-breaking moments such as “This is the sound of finding you,” “Castleton extrapolates,” and “Is this me holding on or letting go?” make for interesting listening, and above all else, it is extremely evident that this is Castleton's therapy. And, despite my few gripes, it couldn't be much more enjoyable for the rest of us.
I got this album a little while ago but haven't really had a chance to give it a good listen. I did, however, realize that they played "Coffelocks" at Hollister, where I work, so I heard it a lot haha. What I have heard has definitely been interesting, I'll have to give it a few real listens through to really get an idea of the album I guess.