Matt Priest – vocals / bass / trombone / percussion (about)
Elizabeth Lindau – vocals / violin / percussion (about)
Jeremy Beckford – guitar / vocals (about)
Ryan Tracy – keyboard / piano / bass / vocals (about)
David Jensen – drums (about)
When Canasta throws around the term “long-awaited” to describe their upcoming album, The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, they aren’t just whistling Dixie. Considering the band has been a staple—perhaps even the unspoken centerpiece—of Chicago’s orchestral pop contingent this millennium, it’s hard to believe that this is just their second full‐length. But Canasta doesn’t profess to be any sort of lightning rod for the muses. As un‐sexy as it sounds, the members are probably better described as pop craftsmen/women. Their composition process may take time, but it elicits serious pride in the end result.
Boasting a six‐person line‐up, Canasta has always augmented the standard rock set-up with piano, keyboard, violin and trombone. But despite an ever‐changing roster that has included fifteen members (!), founders Matt Priest and Elizabeth Lindau continue to keep the orchestrations meticulous, the lyrics thoughtful, the melodies unforgettable and the sound uniquely “Chicagoan.” But don’t get the impression they spend all their time cooped up in the studio and rehearsal space. Since forming, they’ve managed to live out one rock n’ roll dream after another. They’ve toured the country—hitting CMJ and SXSW—and back at home, headlined the legendary Metro and held the prestigious Schubas residency. They’ve gigged with killer bands like Wilco, Grizzly Bear, Devotchka, Alabama Shakes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Sloan, Kaiser Chiefs, Menomena, White Rabbits and The Delgados and even played a set for President Obama. Their songs have made their way into TV commercials, a movie trailer and NPR’s programming and they’ve sold out pressings of both their debut EP, Find the Time, and full-length, We Were Set Up…
…which brings us to the new album. It’s a record that earns its lengthy gestation period and demonstrates a big step forward in songwriting. This album’s louder moments are darker, denser and more dramatic than those found on past recordings, with harder‐hitting drums, boomier bass and a swarm of buzzing synths. But conversely, its prettier moments are sparser and more heartbreaking, with vocals bordering on a whisper and the audible creaking and squeaking of piano pedals, guitar frets and violin strings. And along the way, the record flirts with elements new to the band, borrowing from the likes of disco, shoegaze, spaghetti western, gospel and blue‐eyed soul. But in their hands, it never spirals out of control; it’s unquestionably still a pop record at heart. The album, the band’s first for upstart label RWIM Chicago, will be released this Spring. And despite the wait, Canasta’s confident that once folks hear exactly what they’ve been up to, all will be forgiven and 2010 will emerge as THE YEAR OF THE FAKEOUT! (Typing that last part was every bit as fun as I’d hoped it would be.)