Carcrashlander press/album reviews: I don't know why Desert City Soundtrack called it quits, but I miss them all the same. I'll give credit where it's due to any band trying to expand the boundaries of genre and DCS gave it a good try with post-hardcore. Cory Gray, Matt Carillo, Caitlin Love, and Bryan 'Nightdog' Wright pushed a genre plagued by stiff rhythms, twitchy guitars and more Fugazi sound-a-likes than you can shake a stick at toward a fuller, looser end by incorporating elements of slowcore, post-rock, and jazz into their fiery compositions. Toward the end of the band's tenure, Cory managed to slip me a CD-R of some stuff he was working on as a side-project at the time called Carcrashlander. It was an even more somber, personal affair than what most will remember of Desert City Soundtrack. Not to detract from that band's material, Carcrashlander features many of the same players but it's obvious that this is Gray's baby through and through. Carcrashlander sort of picks up where the last Desert City Soundtrack album left off. It dispenses with any remnants of the harsher side (no screaming, no explosive crescendos) and instead favors the kind of candle-lit bedroom feel of early Low albums. It's definitely more in the singer-songwriter vein of stalwarts like Nick Cave or in some of the less successful songs Randy Newman. For instance, 'Gold Sunset' and 'Carbon Waltz' are born of the same bleary-eyed state that birthed DCS songs like 'Batteries' and 'Mothball Fleet (Counterattack).' Parks & Records is a good label to throw your money at as well. The packaging on their albums is made of 100% reused/recycled materials. The label also supports other organizations that focus on keeping the planet green. As one of the initial releases on the new label, Gray's Carcrashlander is a great place for them to start. Fans of Desert City Soundtrack would do well to follow Gray into whatever territory he mines from here on out. I think this solo outing is a good indication that the guy has plenty of talent to burn and his light isn't going out anytime soon. - Delusions of Adequacy I first met Cory Gray (aka Carcrashlander) shortly after moving to Portland as he was then the piano player for local emo heroes Desert City Soundtrack (I may have met him briefly in my previous home of Santa Rose, California as that was where he moved here from as well). I could tell from local D.C.S. gigs that the guy was supremely talented and he has since lent his talents to records by plenty of other folks both local (Decemberists, Norfolk and Western, etc.) and beyond (Aussie popster Darren Hanlon) but Carcrashlander is his solo baby. Some of the earlier Carcrashlander stuff I heard was basically Cory and his piano but on most of these songs he has other players help him out and most songs get the full band treatment. The first cut, 'Gold Sunset' perfectly sets the tone for the record where an air of mystery surrounds it all while 'Carbon Waltz' was more upbeat and even a bit, playful and 'The Skin that You've Grown' has an otherworldliness about it (hard to describe but it's there). As opposed to musicians who can simply play, Cory can write well-crafted pop songs too and I have to say, this debut full-length is full of them. - Daggerzine Indie rock doesn't have to be innovative to be successful. Sometimes the prudent use of a few simple tools, injected with soul and passion, can produce a result far beyond the sum of the musical components. Similarly, strident political exhortation can be bracing, and at times inspire contemplation, then action. But sometimes the most potent politics are implicit, following the example of Fugazi's poetic lyrics and principled approach to their 'business' dealings. In a time when much of indie/punk's connection to progressivism has been blurred or lost, a new band and label arrives with a creative approach. Carcrashlander is Cory Gray, formerly of Desert City Soundtrack, a Portland band that blended somber melodies, pensive piano passages, and thrashing DIY hardcore noise into an emotionally resonant clusterf***. In a good way. His new approach relies on the first two, excludes the loud parts, and adds some very nice progressive lyricism and a heavy dose of supplemental instrumentation, precisely played and painstakingly arranged. The CD comes in a post-consumer cardboard sleeve, it's grainy brown embellished with a simple screen-printed image, the band name and a campfire. The minimal packaging and humble, nature-themed art suggest the label, Parks and Records, is ecologically conscious. Indeed, they donate a portion of proceeds to the National Arbor Day Foundation and other green organizations. As ecology becomes a larger issue for progressives, it seems likely to be a major focus of politically conscious art in the years to come. Park and Records and Carcrashlander are leading the way, and doing so in a gentle, artistic manner. - 30music.com Possibly the most eco-friendly record label has produced one of the most sustainable records of the year. Housed in an individually hand-stamped, recycled office paper sleeve, the album appears crude and simplistic, but the nobility behind reducing carbon by eliminating plastic jewel cases reveals a thoughtfulness and acumen that's also found in the rich, buoyant songs on the album. Singer/songwriter Cory Gray offers an answer for those seeking the next Black Heart Procession or Songs: Ohia. The songs on Carcrashlander are static-free, clean, richly produced and largely piano driven - minimalist dark tunnels centered on Gray's deep, inscrutable voice. The debut is a cohesive work and, like any BHP album, it feels vintage, like a treacherous waltz or like the dark, slowed moments of later Tom Waits. Songs typically arrive with gentle piano chording and patiently paced drums, dotted by subtle dirty electric guitar and synths. Undeniably, the heart of the album belongs to Gray, whose voice and words elevate the placid instrumentation into inexplicable gorgeousness. This is especially pronounced on the song "Branches Made of Money," which effortlessly flows with ride cymbal pings and a hauntingly stark piano melody as Gray sings in near conversational tones, "I sleep with sleepless horses racing / From a source that somehow forces me to ignore everything / It's not enough / It's hot enough in the summertime / It's hard enough / It's hot enough outside." With all of Gray's doubled harmonies and dark broodiness, the result is an artful, delicate and completely indelible series of emotional experiences. If this debut album is a sign of things to come for this equally debut label, tell Jagjaguwar to scoot over and make room for the new guy. - West Coast Performer (CD of the Month! April 2008) There's an autumnal grace to Carcrashlander's self-titled debut album - an almost three-dimensional quality that feels less like listening to a soundtrack than being in the film itself. The hushed vocals of singer-songwriter Cory Gray and spare piano provide the anchor for Carcrashlander's evocative chamber pop. Horns and strings swirl in and out of the mist, sometimes woozily, sometimes to a spectral effect, but always in a way that's genuinely mesmerizing. While most of the songs could easily provide the background music for a regret-filled stumble through the streets of New Orleans as the sun is just starting to peak on the horizon, tracks like "Carbon Waltz" and "Quoting Dead Comedians" pick up the pace and add a healthy dose of variety to a record that promises to be one of '08's best local offerings. - The Portland Tribune I've seen Carcrashlander compared to Randy Newman and I can't stand Randy Newman. After listening to the debut album (and first release by green-focused Parks and Records), one of two things must be true: Either the Randy Newman comparison is inaccurate or I need to reconsider my feelings about him. Or perhaps there is a third possibility: Carcrashlander gets very close to a line (that Newman crosses) which divides good from cheesy. One thing I know though, is that this album is really, really good. Carcrashlander is really Cory Gray who played with the haunting Desert City Soundtrack. While this is somewhat of a departure from that band's work, it maintains the same quirkiness. The piano-driven music is dynamic, countered by low-key, droning vocals. Dissonance tugs on the album's pop elements, making it colorful and multi-dimensional. At times, the ambient noise behind the piano gives it an airy trippiness reminiscent of pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd's more mellow moments. At other times, it shifts back and forth between poppiness and moodiness. Sometimes the songs fall into schmaltzy piano pop and other times they expand out into a bit of free jazz. Occasionally, Carcrashlander falls into the singer-songwriter trap of craft taking precedence over emotion, but more often it finds a way of being oddly comforting in it's sadness and moodiness. Both musically and emotionally, the album seems to be on different pages at the same time, but it somehow finds an alternate synchronization that is pretty amazing. - Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (A Great Blog with the best album rating system ever!) Cory's just released an album on Parks and Records, a new venture by Jon Fee, from the Rum Diary, with his wife, Mimi. Carcrashlander is like a more lazily drunken version of Out of the Fierce Parade: the piano-drenched songs stumble in all the right places, and the trumpets and dirge-like drums create a loose-tie atmosphere. - Boho Beat, North Bay Bohemian This is the first full-length release from Portland 's Cory Gray, who toured with the complimentary Desert City Soundtrack for years. Tightly-knit, melodic-driving pianocore, with minor pop undertones, and wooing vocals makes for a unique first release from newly-minted label Parks & Records, which was recently started as a 'green' label (the packaging is made from recycled materials and is limited in plastics) by Jon Fee (The Rum Diary) and his wife Mimi. 'Carcrashlander' will instantly whisk you away into soundscapes of solitude and will paint rural backdrops in your mind. This is a must for fans of The Desert City Soundtrack, The Rum Diary, Black Heart Procession, Pleasure Forever, as well as music with an indie/folky, and earthy sound. - AMP Magazine On first listen, Portland-based Carcrashlander really caught my attention with their piano-driven melodies and dreamy, bedroom vocals. Cory Gray (a.k.a. The Carcrashlander) has an affinity for writing catchy pop-songs that lack traditional choruses-the instrumentation holds the melody while the lyrics just drift on without repetition. - USF Foghorn The first thing that caught our attention about this release was the label. The folks at the independent Parks and Records label are approaching things from a different perspective...apparently driven more by morals than money. Not only are they only releasing albums they feel very strongly about by folks who they feel are like-minded, but their CDs are packaged in 100% recycled/reused packaging. Not only that, but they support environmentally friendly organizations. That was nifty enough to be certain...but we were even more impressed when we heard the music of Carcrashlander. Damn, this is good stuff. The band is the project created by Cory Gray who was previously in the band The Desert City Soundtrack. Gray writes smooth, instantly friendly, smart pop music that features cool arrangements and excellent vocals. His intriguing subtle lyrics and melodies have real staying power. This twelve track album is a real winner. Top picks: 'Gold Sunset,' 'Carbon Waltz,' 'Quoting Dead Comedians,' and 'Words in Another Language.' Recommended. (Rating: 5++) - Babysue.com The album's first track, "Gold Sunset," contains all the ingredients of a great pop song: a solid, bob-your-head beat, catchy keyboards, subdued, too-cool-for-school vocals, an unexpected flailing fuzz-guitar solo and a haunting female voice, all of which culminate in a noise-induced climax. Read the full review here - The Portland Sentinel The name Cory Gray might not be familiar to you, but crack open the liner notes to recordings by some of Portland's best local bands. There, in the credits, you'll find him. Primarily a hired gun who lends his piano and trumpet skills to various acts, both local and global, Gray is finally striking out on his own under the moniker Carcrashlander. With a debut self-titled LP under his belt, it's high time Gray made the transition from the back of the stage to his rightful position in the front. Read on... - The Portland Mercury Carcrashlander is the project started by Cory Gray. You might not know that name but if you have an album from a Portland band there is probably a good chance he might be playing somewhere on it. Gray is a session player for acts as diverse as The Decemberists, Grails, Norfolk & Western, Graves and Life At These Speeds. But, you should know him best from his former band, the sadly underrated Desert City Soundtrack. Carcrashlander's official debut album comes courtesy of an interesting new label called Parks And Records (a percentage of all sales goes towards arbor related projects). Owing comparisons towards Desert City's more even-keeled record, the somber Perfect Addiction, Carcrashlander play dark piano-driven music. In fact, moreso than older (unreleased) Carcrashlander material, Gray often uses a full band approach here. While it adds depth to Gray's arrangements, this is strictly his show. His piano and horn playing along with his trademark somber vocal style continue to lead the way. Carcrashlander offers up a brooding album's worth of material here that seemingly contradicts at every point. Gray's moody tendencies are balanced by a wealth of ominous restraint. The sound of the record is mysterious yet still oddly comforting. It all works to push the album towards beautifully, sad places. So, I guess seems fitting that a campfire adorns the front cover. While Carcrashlander's music is warm, intimate and even inviting at times, it sheds light on a world much better off left in the dark. - Sound As Language Carcrashlander, led by Cory Gray, a multi-instrumentalist who revels in the discomforting aspects of life - heartbreak, self-doubt, passing out drunk. The lyrics on this album are rarely that cut and dry, though they do cut deep, filled as they are with poetic fragments worthy of Celine. Gray is joined on this new album by fellow moody songsmiths Adam Selzer (Norfolk & Western), Shelley Short and Laura Gibson, who do much to add to the drowsy and hypnotic atmosphere. - Live PDX There's a welcome lightness to the instrumentation, focusing on Gray's austere piano playing and echoed vocals, all undercut with lovely trumpet lines and some dulcet vocal work by Shelley Short and Laura Gibson. The songs that cut the deepest are the ones that move slowly and methodically, raking over each melodic line, either sung or played. Album closer 'Words in Another Language' might read like a lost metaphor on the lyric sheet, but when filtered through Gray's desperate vocal performance, they sound like absolute truths. This remarkable and assured album might not answer the questions posed above, but it's overcast sensibilities will no doubt resonate with many music fans out there. Misery does love company after all. - The Oregonian The beauty of being a session player, apparently, is having friends in high places, all over the place. Such is the case with trumpeter and pianist Cory Gray, who-with a rotating cast of stellar collaborators-records as Carcrashlander (read more here). This particular track, which heads off his recent (and first) solo effort, is a prime example. The credits for Carcrashlander read like a veritable PDX folk all-stars list: Dave Depper (bass); Shelley Short, Laura Gibson (backing vocals); Adam Selzer and Nate Ashley (guitar); Brian Wright (drums); and Amanda Lawrence on viola and violin. If those names bring Type Foundry studios to mind, there's good reason: Gray's played on many a song recorded there, as have most of those listed above, and Selzer runs the space. The reason all these connections matter needs no more explanation than a single listen to "Gold Sunset." Two of the song's most striking elements-Selzer's fuzzed-out guitar and Short's twang-tinged, vaguely Dolly vocals-appear thanks to Gray's work in the studio and on tour. But, even amidst all that familial talent, Gray's piano and trumpet shine most brightly-creating a perfectly spooking tapestry for Selzer and Short to tear apart in their own, affecting ways. About two minutes into "Gold Sunset," the song breaks and allows for Gray's slightly whiny, sepia-toned trumpet to set the mood. Selzer then steps in and electrifies the vintage-sounding track with very Norfolk & Western-y guitar. The verse that culminates with Gray and Short pairing up on the refrain: "This isn't a coma/ You're wide awake," before a slow-building guitar- and piano-fueled noise-freakout takes hold. Much like it's namesake: beautiful. - Portland's Musical Journal / Willamette Week.