Press Kit
Canasta Press Photo #1 Hi-Res Press Photo #1 (JPG)
Canasta Press Photo #2 Hi-Res Press Photo #2 (JPG)

Canasta Press Photo #3 - Color
Hi-Res Press Photo #3 (JPG)
Canasta Press Photo #4 - Color
Hi-Res Press Photo #4 (JPG)

Photos by: Sarah Hadley
Press Docs: Full Bio (DOC) / Short Bio (DOC)
Press Clips (DOC) / Accomplishments (DOC)
Entire Press Kit: ZIP / Stage Plot: JPEG, PDF

Press Clips

…Canasta has been one of my favorite Chicago bands for some time now, as well as ranking near the top of my list for the smartest and hardest working groups in town.
— Jim DeRogatis, Sound Opinions / /, February 17, 2014
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This is cruel, because you need to hear this band, even as the set time bumps against the day’s Petrillo headliners. If music (rather than lyrics) can be witty and whip-smart, that's Canasta. Deft arrangements and intricate polyrhythms are oh, so pretty.
— Kevin Williams, Chicago Tribune, July 6, 2013
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…masterful construction of hooky songs… Perhaps too polished for the hipster set, or enigmatic with their sporadic release schedule, Canasta holds their own against the big craftsmen of pop…
— Justin Sinkovich, Epitonic, June 3, 2013
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…the group is celebrating its 10th anniversary and for any band, that’s a miracle… Somehow [Canasta] has persisted. It has continued to make impressionistic pop music, set in the soul of a big city, one with trains and traffic and more fast-moving people than you could ever could ever count or cross. It has continued to write songs that fill themselves out in all the right places — offering quirky and charming, gritty and mopey succinctly… they’re that good.
— Sean Moeller, Daytrotter, May 31, 2012
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…a celebrated stalwart of ‘orchestral pop’… intricate, delicate, sometimes deeply emotional pop music.
— Thomas Conner, Chicago Sun-Times, May 30, 2012
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…as versatile a rock band as the city has ever offered.
— Steve Forstneger, Illinois Entertainer, May 30, 2012
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The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather is an example of a band working at the height of their powers… The lyrics are haunting, the melodies gorgeous, and the instrumental performances by everyone involved are powerful and evocative… Bands like Canasta don’t come around every day, and we should cherish the one we have.
— Josh Terzino, Music. Defined., May 23, 2012
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It takes some guts to kick a record off with a seven-minute whopper of a track, but when it’s as good to the opener to Canasta’s The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, the risk certainly pays off.
— Sasha Geffen, Windy City Rock, April 17, 2012
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…sometimes they play a song so stunningly perfect that an overwhelming silence takes over a very sold out, very amped up room. That was the scene as the final notes of Canasta’s ‘I Don’t Know Where I Was Going With This’ disappeared inside Lincoln Hall… I love those kinds of moments at shows, and love them even more when they are wholly unexpected and involve the kind of gorgeous, soaring, orchestral pop like Canasta plays.
— Adam Sharp, Songs For The Day, April 5, 2012
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Trust me on this, you are gonna want this album. This band is so good…
— Fitz, Modern Rock 98.7 (Wilmington, NC), February 24, 2012
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They’re all experienced musicians, with firm grasps on their instruments and complete control of their voices… This isn't the sound of now, per se; it’s the timeless sound of yesterday, today, and tomorrow too… Sure the band retains the thick multi-part harmonies and brassy trombone lines from its albums, but there is plenty of rock to the band’s live show.
— Sid Sowder, Too Much Rock, January 19, 2012
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…could be he next big pop band out of Chi town. Their music is moving and the band is tightly knit together. It is not as if we are the first to notice this talent…
— Michael Morahan, Freio Music, August 20, 2011
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This stuff is almost prog-rock in its scope and ambition, hurtling along on a sea of dense instrumentation and atypical rock instruments… we love Canasta, and don’t see how anybody wouldn’t.
— Kevin Williams, Chicago Tribune, August 5, 2011
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Kitchen-sink indie par excellence, Canasta has a way with cacophony that is often as tuneful and melodic as it is bursting with ideas… a night of heady ambition.
— Time Out Chicago, August 5, 2011
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…brings a new sound to modern alternative pop rock… their popularity has been skyrocketing since the debut of their first EP… For fans of Belle & Sebastian, The Decemberists, and The Flaming Lips, this group is definitely worth a listen.
— Tony Quinn, Static, August 5, 2011
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Canasta is one of the hardest working bands in town, and honestly one of the best… 2010 saw the release of their tremendous album The Fakeout, the Tease, and the Breather.
— Jason Behrends, The Deli, May 12, 2011
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Canasta is hitting some milestones. Though the venerable local orchestral pop band has been plugging away for a few years now, the six-piece has finally hit a stride…
— Jessica Hopper, Chicago Tribune, May 12, 2011
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The Fakeout, The Tease, and The Breather is an innovative, orch-pop take on modern rock… interesting vocals and complex melodies… the album gets better with time…
— Alexa Daugherty,, May 12, 2011
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…proof that the Windy City is home to some of the finest indie bands on the planet… Canasta’s intricate, well-crafted orch-pop has got them a great deal of attention ever since the release of their debut full-length We Were Set Up, and the sextet has really gained momentum with their most recent release, The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather. It’s an album full of melody and memorable hooks, but also a thoughtfulness and subtlety that reveal more with each listen.
— Frank Krolicki, Windy City Rock, May 10, 2011
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It takes guts to kick off an album with a seven-minute track, but Canasta rewards the listener who hangs in there. ‘Becoming You’ unfolds with patient pop majesty, recalling Belle & Sebastian or the Decemberists as it evokes a warm spring morning shaking off the frost. Sometimes the band’s slow burn boils over in thrilling fashion, as in ‘I Don’t Know Where I Was Going with This,’ which gathers polyrhythmic keyboards, violin and guitar arpeggios into a momentous baroque gallop.
— Lou Carlozo, Christian Century, April 25, 2011
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…an hour-long collection that deftly balances between being very much of its time and place and carving out something individual at the same time. From the beginning, with the lengthy ‘Becoming You,’ there’s a sense that the band’s ever more comfortable with the big and dramatic… But whether it’s the slower builds or the sense of brisk focus instead of huge arena-aimed stomps, Canasta don’t go over the edge… It’s a good omen for the remainder of the album, with the spiky massed vocal moments from their first album echoing here; the lead instrumentation changing on a dime between guitars and pianos and whatever else, and the rhythm section kicking along… The whole band has a great ear for performances that complement each other’s work and provides the icing on the cake…
— Ned Raggett, AllMusic, March 19, 2011
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The opening arrangements in “Becoming You” keep you locked on a journey through constant harmony. With chromatic changes and perfectly placed string solos leading the listener to an ever compelling choral outro. Then “Mexico City” slaps you in the head. A perfect soundtrack… plays with heart, and keeps your ears tuned together until the end… They are a band to keep in your auditory rotation and one to see live over and over again.
— Otis Thompson, Reviewsic, February 25, 2011
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By the time I reach the concluding track, it is hard to believe the journey Canasta has taken me on in just eleven songs. Each one endears itself to a new set of the listener’s emotions and each new instrument the band brings into the mix--be it trombone, synth, violin, what have you--is more refreshingly unexpected than the last.
— Katie Karpowicz, Gapers Block, February 23, 2011
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The fact that Canasta is a six-piece helps them deliver beautiful, complicated, nearly-orchestral pop. Clean ringing guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies floating over strings and keys draws easy comparisons to The Smiths… There nestled in the extensive list of influences is what appears to be the nearly 30 years of my record collection. While this list seems impossibly diverse on paper, the thing that unifies all of these artists is a strong knack for melody and composition that Canasta brings in spades.
— Michael Roeder, Little Village (Iowa City, IA), February 3, 2011
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Winner: Best of Chicago 2010 Fans’ Poll
— The Deli, January 31, 2011
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Canasta takes the elctro-indie genre and mixes in a little bit of chamber pop to create a very sophisticated take on music. And in a market such as theirs, their native Chicago, you need to bring something special to the table to get noticed. And I’d say they’ve done this very very nicely with The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather.
— Michael Byars, The Mailbox / Present Magazine (Kansas City, MO), January 31, 2011
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…[the album’s title] alludes to the music’s adventurousness. It rarely goes in the anticipated directions, and it often doesn’t conform to standard pop structures… alternately thoughtful and rousing…
— Jeff Ignatius, River Cities’ Reader (Quad Cities, IL / IA), January 26, 2011
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…for 2011, add local Chicago six-piece Canasta to your required listening. That is if you haven’t already been completely entranced by their impeccable songwriting and creative instrumentation.
— Sam McAllister, Tandem Magazine, January 11, 2011
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Top 50 Albums of 2010… incredibly, the group is not signed. Yet their pop knows how to be both epic while intimate, in order to capture one's ear. For here, there are more beautiful songs and choruses to hum than on many acclaimed albums…
— I Left Without My Hat (France), January 3, 2011
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Top Songs of 2010: 5. Canasta - ‘I Don't Know Where This Was Going With This’… Canasta has floored me with this soft and flowing orchestral indie pop gem. This is one of those beautiful songs that I have just have a hard time believing that someone wrote. The strings, the piano, the drums, the cascading backing vocals, those brilliant shifts, changes and movements, and oh my goodness that gorgeous repeated refrain. This is simply perfection and you will sing along.
— Sid Sowder, Too Much Rock, December 31, 2010
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Top 10 regional CDs of 2010… Clearly a case of quality over quantity, because the 11 songs here are all keepers. When this CD hits my stereo, it takes up residence, because the lush and catchy melodies demand multiple replays… impressive on all levels - vocals, instrumentation, songwriting, production… Highlights: The whole album - seriously!
— Tom Lounges, Northwest Indiana Times, December 31, 2010
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Best of Chicago 2010… The 2nd full length album from Canasta is loaded with intricate yet accessible orchestral pop music.
— Pete Zimmerman, The Huffington Post, December 29, 2010
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…sophisticated song-craft and dazzling musicianship… altogether excellent…
— Gregg Shapiro, Wisconsin Gazette, November 18, 2010
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…Chicago’s Canasta was more than enough to bring me out of music writer retirement. And I wasn’t disappointed. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable weeknights of music I’ve seen anywhere in some time… The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather is arguably my favorite album released so far this year. The remarkably well-crafted songs just plain make me happy, encouraging listen after listen… The whole set was spot on…
— David de Young, HowWasTheShow?, October 20, 2010
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…an innovative departure from pop music’s standard instrumentation and song construction… more than the sum of its parts… impressive…
— Rich Albertoni, Isthmus (Madison, WI), September 30, 2010
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4 Stars - Canasta takes songwriting and composition to a whole new level with their latest release… the very definition of orchestral pop… just may produce shivers down a few spines… The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather is an album with staying power. Sophisticated musicianship mixes with memorable melodies and insightful lyrics… It wouldn’t be surprising if these guys (and girls) made it big(ger) this coming year.
— Jenny Bauer, The Badger Herald (Madison, WI), September 29, 2010
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…they’re making hip music that’s complex, but accessible at the same time.
— Mark Wedel, Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, MI), September 16, 2010
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Although the album includes such stylistic diversity as the chugging rock of ‘Magazine (Songwriter on a Train),’ the slow-building tension of ‘I Don’t Know Where I Was Going with This,’ the sprightly pop of ‘Mexico City’ with its shifting emphasis on synthesizer, piano, violin and guitar, and the soul-tinged horns and guitar of ‘Reading the Map Upside Down,’ The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, at times, feels more like an 11-movement work than a collection of songs.
— Andrew S. Hughes, South Bend Tribune (South Bend, IN), September 11, 2010
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…the somewhat dreamy orchestral pop from the Chicago band Canasta on The Fakeout, the Tease and The Breather, sounds so unbelievably good that no major label could improve it… This may seem like an exaggeration, but believe me, indiepop has seldom sounded so pretty as it does on this second album from Canasta…
— Eric van Domburg Scipio, Heaven (The Netherlands), August, 2010
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The musicians are clearly talented, the composer/singer has a beautiful voice and knows how to use it wisely and the orchestrations are very elaborate, with narratives that leave space for everyone while letting the pieces breathe. It takes several plays to discover all the subtleties inherent in these tracks…
— Sucrepop (France), August 30, 2010
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…the wonderful local ork-pop band that’s been working hard behind its exquisite if awkwardly titled new album, The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather.
— Jim DeRogatis, Sound Opinions / /, August 20, 2010
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…listeners should be thanking their stars that the band took their time on this album. Filled with detailed orchestration, plenty of emotion, and carefully planned harmonies, this album speaks to the layers of orchestration that Canasta can produce… The Fakeout, The Tease and The Breather has taken Chicago’s music scene by storm and reaffirmed all the previous gushing from music critics… Priest’s lyrics are powerful and haunting…
— Britni Day, Loud Loop, August 19, 2010
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Though Elsinore is the headliner, Canasta is an equally great (if not better) reason to check out Lincoln Hall Friday night. The Chicago-based orchestra-pop band seems to have been on the verge since 2002… [they] always seem to be a bit under the radar. Which is surprising, considering their New Pornographers-duo sound matched with a Midwestern alt-country feel… the marriage Friday night between both Elsinore and Canasta’s nuanced pop will be a holy experience.
— Dee Fabbricatore, New City, August 16, 2010
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…a total trip… There’s so much going on… that I discover new things about it with just about every listen… It’s superb.
— Eric Hughes, Chicago Tunes, August 12, 2010
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The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather is one of the best Chicago albums of the year.
— Metromix / RedEye, July 23, 2010
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With The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, however, Matt Priest and Elizabeth Lindau’s band have matured not beyond recognition, but what used to be heartbroken odes to young loves lost have acquired desperation… An overall emphasis on acoustic and electric piano underscores Canasta’s mood, though brilliant touches like the gang chorus in ‘Mexico City’ reminds that all worth living for isn’t quite lost.
— Steve Forstneger, Illinois Entertainer, July, 2010
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Canasta has been riding a giant (and much deserved) wave of hype… a formidable lineup of multi-instrumentalists and a pop sensibility that gave equal nod to both melody and texture… Rarely is new music categorized as being both immediately accessible and dizzyingly complex, but Priest and co-founder Elizabeth Lindau manage this feat so adroitly at times that it even makes [Arcade Fire’s] Win Butler and Régine Chassagne look like rookies… manages to astound just as much on the first listen as it does on the fifth… restrained genius… everything they touch is handled with such a grace and elegance… the songwriting here is so sharp that Canasta makes it exceedingly difficult to give [the album] only one spin.
— Adam Costa,, June 28, 2010
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(3 1/2 Stars) The tone is set for an album of open-air chamber pop that sounds like it wants to go haywire (and become a mess) but has been expertly subdued and shaped and is thus sublime… Pop rarely sounds this warm and natural when it’s this intricately composed.
— Thomas Conner, Chicago Sun-Times, June 2, 2010
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Chicago’s premier orchestral indie pop outfit… The lengthy break between this and their intriguing 2005 debut, We Were Set Up, allowed the band’s already dynamic sound to blossom further… melody that soaks deep into your skin before you know what happened… strikingly gorgeous songs…
— Chad Grischow, IGN, May 21, 2010
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…a Chicago orch-pop band who has been on the verge since its conception… The much anticipated follow up to their 5-year-old freshman effort, We Were Set Up, finds the band on slightly more mature ground, while maintaining the same, meticulous layers of pop and alt-country… The more I listen to the album, the more I like it… Listening to The Fakeout, The Tease and The Breather is pleasant on the surface, but not for the faint of hearing, take a minute with this one for maximum enjoyment.
— Erin Keane, Via Chicago, May 21, 2010
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…stunning… Their sophomore effort finds Canasta mastering their craft to create a sonically and emotionally compelling collection of new songs… the album leaps into group sing-alongs, triumphant epics, and tender lows… It took a while, but we’re glad the band put the five years between albums to such great use.
— Jim Kopeny, Chicagoist, May 14, 2010
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While there are literally thousands of bands and musicians we could have covered in our first-ever local music package, we could only select one each from a variety of different genres. These artists run the gamut of experience, style and audience, but they all have one thing in common—a raw love for their craft.
— Terri Gordon, Shore Magazine, May 14, 2010
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I was excited for the show but I wasn’t expecting just how great it turned out to be… What impressed me most was the content of their music, which is not composed of cheap rhymes and simple chord progressions, but seems to be crafted thoughtfully in a way that is best suited to tell the story of each song. It is for this reason that I can really see this band getting huge, not in a band-of-the-moment kind of way but in a national-cult-following kind of way, because they don’t rely on trends and gimmicks to beef up their show or music; they possess real musical talents…
— Gali Firstenberg, Familiarize Yourself, May 12, 2010
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If you missed the Saturday night shows, you definitely missed out on a special experience…While bands can easily falter pulling off a note-for-note recreation of the album on-stage, by not giving fans anything unexpected, Canasta’s lush sounds and added oomph songs receive live keep everything feeling fresh and vibrant… it was impossible not to be impressed by the dynamic range and versatility of the band’s sound… The band announced a handful of summer shows, and you would be insane not to seek them out at one of them.
— Chad Grischow, Chi-Town Notes, May 9, 2010
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Canasta does something seemingly simple, but deeply complex… comes on slowly and leaves you picking up your jaw in amazement… The capability of six instrumentalists to work with dynamics is easy to attain, but to do it in a way where as the sound isn’t overwhelming or convoluted isn’t quite the walk in the park it comes off as… Priest’s striking voice complements the compositions with an unadulterated and crisp tone.
— Daniel Wehrli, HEAVE Media, May 8, 2010
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With its lush arrangements, intelligent lyrics, and Technicolor cover art, Canasta’s new LP The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather bears more than a passing resemblance to XTC’s masterpiece Oranges and Lemons. The comparison is a high compliment, but Chicago’s leading orchestral-pop outfit earns the praise with another consistent effort that recalls The Sea and Cake, Arthur Lee and Belle & Sebastian in equal measure… thoroughly modern chamber music.
— Ben Bass, Flavorpill, May 8, 2010
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…the group delivers a sound that’s distinctly its own, a sound that’s beautiful and pained, joyous and sad, sprawling and intimate. True the songs on its new album The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather hover around five minutes each, and they require repeat listens to truly appreciate their majesty. But it’s an album that supports that old saying that patience is a virtue, not to mention one of the strongest Chicago album releases of the year.
— Piet Levy, True/Slant, May 8, 2010
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The orchestrated pop on this local sextet’s new full-length, The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, is so perfect—every note falling into place with deeply satisfying craftsmanship—that you’ll swear you’ve heard it before. But you haven’t… Bandleaders Matt Priest and Elizabeth Lindau are just tuned into some form of divine radio where all the best of indie pop, yacht rock, and sad troubadour folk present themselves in virgin form. The uncomfortably intimate ‘Plan Your Escape,’ the slinky ‘Appreciation,’ and the sweetly bitter ‘Shortcut’ set the tone for the revelation that this sad puppy has teeth.
— Monica Kendrick, Chicago Reader, May 7, 2010
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…excellent and incredibly reliable…
— Matt Pais, Chicago Now, May 7, 2010
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…beautiful and complex and filled with subtle goodness… They really do pave their own path and the results are remarkable. The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather is the album the band was always meant to make and they have made it look effortless.
— The Deli, May 7, 2010
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At the start of Canasta’s new album The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather, you can almost feel storm clouds parting for the 11 sunny, rollicking songs that lay ahead. For nearly a decade, the local chamber-pop group has managed to retain its ambition and melodic optimism, without ever coming across as winking… The band also knows how to write patient songs, taking a good five or six minutes to completely unfold every lush, moody wrinkle.
— The Onion, May 6-12, 2010
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Recommended… The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather is packed with comfortable R&B, ranging from breezy, horn-driven strut-rock (‘Reading The Map Upside Down’) to pensive bluesy ballads (‘I Don’t Know Where I Was Going With This’). Frontman Matt Priest has a palatable voice that anchors the sextet’s straight-up approach, ignoring the multitude of tools at its disposable and instead insisting on a simple equation of quick riffs mixed with hummable melodies.
— Andy Seifert, New City, May 5, 2010
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This is a local band, just really, really solid… This is a band that just does orchestral, indie pop as well as any group in Chicago.
— Matt Pais, WGN News’ “Daily Buzz,” May 5, 2010
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…a set of thoughtful, heartfelt pop that reveals more and more to love with each listen… As is the case with most great records, The Fakeout requires a bit of dedication on the listener’s part… What’s noticeable right away, though, are Canasta’s superb musicianship, mastery of melody and achingly earnest vocals and lyrics delivered by Priest… We Were Set Up established Canasta as one of Chicago’s most notable indie pop acts, and The Fakeout should bring them many more accolades and opportunities. It may have taken a while to come to light, but it was well worth the wait.
— Frank Krolicki, / Windy City Rock, May 1, 2010
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Chicago’s own Canasta has released three records of chamber-pop goodness since 2003… this month the band will release their long-awaited sophomore record The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather. Akin to fellow Chicago chamber-poppers or ‘orch-pop’ bands like Head of Femur and The 1900s, Canasta’s violin-infused tunes should help keep the genre floating along nicely.
— Garin Pirnia, Chicago Innerview, May 1, 2010
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…an elegantly urgent mix of stately keyboards, insistent strings, and theatrical singing.
— Chicago Magazine, May, 2010
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…Chicago’s orchestral pop geniuses… We could sit here all day and gush over what a fantastic success their sophomore effort is, but we are sure you would rather just be listening to it yourself…
— Chad Grischow, Chi-Town Notes, April 21, 2010
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One of the more anticipated releases of the Spring has to be the new album from Canasta… The first track, ‘Reading the Map Upside Down’, is a shimmering ’70’s AM pop gem complete with horns and piano. ‘Mexico City’ is an all out indie rock assault and never gives up. The last track they posted is my favorite. ‘Becoming You’ is a slow burning, atmospheric ballad that is simply irresistible. The album promises to be worth the wait.
— The Deli, March 17, 2010
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…they are a constant reminder to never be late for a show. For every horrible opening band that sends you packing to the bar to get out of earshot, there is a band like Canasta that you will be glad you stood around early for. The little we’ve heard of Field Music sounds as if they are a good match for Canasta’s killer brand of orchestral indie pop. If you have not yet heard ‘Slow Down Chicago,’ stop reading now and go find it!
— Chad Grischow, Chi-Town Notes, December 1, 2009
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…a band that frolics playfully between delicate ballads and more raucous fare. Their instrumental repertoire included violin and trombone among more traditional rock axes and the unusual combination was used to good effect… a critically up-and-coming band… a promising future for both the band and the night.
— Michael Merline, Spectrum Culture, September 2, 2009
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…joined the ranks of other notable orchestral–pop bands such as Yum–Yum, the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, the 1900s and Head of Femur that have had a notable impact on Chicago’s underground music scene.
— Jeremy D. Bonfiglio, The Herald-Palladium (Southwest Michigan), August 21, 2009
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Straddling the line between hooky pop and orchestral quality has put Canasta on the forefront of a rapidly growing genre dubbed ‘orch pop’… We Were Set Up rewards replays by revealing new layers of sound each time… each replay of the album means a different song catches one’s attention and becomes easier to appreciate. It’s reminiscent of reading an excellent and complex novel; there’s always something new that reveals itself in the same lines.
— Emilie Shumway, South Bend Tribune (South Bend, IN), August 20, 2009
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If it were up to us, we’d have put these lovely, local melodic popsters somewhere around dusk, when their piano plinks could blend nicely into the setting sun.
— Lauren Viera, Chicago Tribune, August 14, 2009
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…[Canasta’s] sound is far more fleshed out and melodic [than that of White Rabbits’], with violin, piano, and even trombone making appearances. Lead singer Matt Priest has a nearly pitch-perfect voice that’s somewhat reminiscent of They Might Be Giants, and the band’s songs were some of the more lush and intricate of the evening.
— Emily Mills, 77 Square / The Capital Times (Madison, WI), July 1, 2009
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…this is not a case of local overhype… a band that loves grande, dramatic, orchestral pop without hesitating to pay their respects to their alt country influences, producing a detailed and sophisticated body of songs… you will be wondering just like me: How is it possible that these guys haven’t got a major contract yet?
— Ilias Katirtzigianoglou, Pop+Rock (Greece), May, 2009
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Everyone plays an integral role in these numbers that sometimes made you bounce and stomp, while others made you want to simply sway, like you were caught in a whirlwind of melancholic pop — Cold War Kids came to mind while taking it all in.
— Moving in Stereo, March 8, 2009
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…effortless, effervescent pop that doesn’t call undue attention to its carefully constructed layers of intertwining melodies… the ork-pop genre has produced some of the best bands in the Chicago underground in the last decade… Canasta certainly deserves a place on this list…
— Jim DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times, July 25, 2008
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Musically there’s a lot going on; the listener can spend hours exploring the same song, peeling back the layers of music and lyrics to reveal different perspectives each time… poignant lyricism contrasted with bouncy happy pop… thoughtful, superbly arranged, interesting music…
— Jill Neumann, Chicago Journal, July 23, 2008
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…Canasta can be called an indie-pop band for good enough reasons, but on their debut album We Were Set Up they display both an ambition and a sense of range that any number of early 21st century American groups described in similar terms would be wise to follow… subtle… mesmerizing… stunning…
— Ned Raggett, AllMusic, May 29, 2008
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Chicago’s Canasta play a rich and usually satisfyingly lush brand of orchestral pop… impressively diverse… rapturous…
— Ian Mathers, PopMatters, March 28, 2008
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How does one improve, or better yet expand on a full-length debut as swell as Canasta’s We Were Set Up? By turning the whole kit and caboodle over to remixers to work their magic on the songs, that’s how.
— Gregg Shapiro, Chicago FreePress, March 8, 2008
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…Canasta’s strength has been mixing genres, ever so slightly, to keep it unpredictable… The band’s impressive orchestral pop, which really could catch on at any moment in a big, big way, will not cease in its power – listening to We Were Set Up again for the first time in a long while, I can’t believe I was able to put it down in the first place.
— Tom Lynch, New City, February 28, 2008
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…a showcase of excellent orch-pop… classic vocals…
— Time Out Chicago, February 28, 2008
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…a favorite of the Chicago music community… lush textures and eclectic arrangements…
— David Watnick, The Michigan Daily, February 22, 2008
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Canasta’s We Were Set Up is a brilliant collection of intelligent, compelling, ultra-melodic orchestral-pop songs. After dropping it into my stereo for the first spin, it was not removed for the next three months… every time I think I have dissected the album from top to bottom I find something new to love about it… My biggest fear for the band is that they stay a cult fave and miss out on the breakout success many bands with far less talent have received as of late… it would be a tragedy.
— Rachel Hurley, Breakthru Radio, February 4, 2008
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It’s harrowing and beautiful. This is maybe the best pop band you’ve never heard of.
— Scott Rader, The Stir Online, September 20, 2007
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Canasta has made a beautiful CD… fantastically textured pop tunes… Watch for Canasta to take the indie scene by storm…
— Villains Always Blink, February 22, 2007
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Trumpet. Upright bass. Cello. Pedal-steel guitar. these tools are integrated into the mix in a smart and subtle manner, and the album’s 13 songs never feel cluttered or convoluted… I’m sure that both Belle and Sebastian and The New Pornographers would be proud to claim it as one of their own.
— Plague of Angels, February 19, 2007
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Canasta has slowly made a name for itself in recent years, thanks to its inventive arrangements… (the band) has separated itself by layering its sounds while retaining remarkable catchiness… Canasta looks primed for a considerable breakthrough.
— David Dye, NPR’s “World Cafe”, February 5, 2007
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…Chicago’s Canasta make eclectic orchestrated pop sound fresh and fantastic… this ambitious six piece’s most recent album, We Were Set Up is a delicious find… What’s not to love about this band?… snappy, sweet horn arrangements, Elizabeth Lindau’s fantastic violin playing and lead vocalist Matt Priest’s unique, charismatic voice… great songs abound…
— Bruce Warren, WXPN 88.5 FM (Philadelphia, PA), January 8, 2007
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Fed by some seriously beautiful Chicago-inspired lyrics and a sweet horn section, not to mention the keyboard/organ ear sugar of Megan O’Connor, this band is one step away from blowing up… if you’re a label rep, listen to this band, now.
— Anne Holub, Gapers Block, December 29, 2006
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#1 Album of 2006: We Were Set Up - Canasta
— Creekside Review, December 29, 2006
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They’re sharpest onstage… their ability to turn on a dime gives them lots of room to experiment, blending various pop elements to create a spirit of controlled chaos.
— Monica Kendrick, Chicago Reader, December 28, 2006
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…creative local musicians with a penchant for lush chamber pop orchestrations…
— Chicago Tribune, December 28, 2006

Canasta’s broad sonic palette defies pat descriptions. Vocalist Matt Priest’s delightfully askew songwriting recalls bands as diverse as Superchunk and the Decemberists.
— Matt Gonzales, INtake (Indianapolis, IN), December 7, 2006
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Top Ten Albums of 2006: We Were Set Up - Canasta
— Kwaya Na Kisser, December 3, 2006
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…I keep coming back to their superb song writing ability… The music has an oceanic quality to it, a vast calming surface with endless life teeming just beneath the surface. It is somehow comforting to know they make their home in Chicago.
— Rory O’Connor, Radio Free Chicago, November 13, 2006
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…impressive on all levels… We Were Set Up is clearly one of the best full-length debuts of the year, and don’t be surprised to see it also show up in several publications’ list for the best albums of 2006.
— Mike Mineo, Obscure Sound, November 3, 2006
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…I make no reservations about the following: This may be the best pop album I’ve listened to all year!
— Muzzle of Bees, October 28, 2006
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Moody emotional epic songs that are sugary, fantastic, and most importantly damn catchy.
— Smother Magazine, September 27, 2006
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…it’s easy to see why their 2005 release – We Were Set Up – received such high praise… Combining the melody and energy of Ben Folds and Mancino, with the instrumentation of bands like the Arcade Fire, then tossing in some heavy Queen influence, this record is laden with hooks, witty lyrics, but at the same time uses intricate changes and structures. If this doesn’t tickle your fancy, you are on the wrong site.
— Hero Hill, September 27, 2006
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…melodic, witty and intelligent chamber-pop… ‘Shadowcat’ could have been written by heartbreak kings Ben Folds or Mac McCaughan, but wasn’t.
—, July 20, 2006
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…clicking on Canasta’s picture was probably the best decision I’ve made… Lead vocalist Matt Priest has an incredible range and I can’t seem to pin down whether I think he sounds like Colin Meloy, Sufjan Stevens, or Freddy Mercury because he adapts his voice so uniquely to each song that it seems to always be changing… The fact that there’s just so much going on that you’re still hearing something new on the fourth listen is really impressive to me… These guys are unsigned by the way, so to any labels reading this: What are you waiting for?!
—, June 11, 2006
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…vocalist Matt Priest cuts a distinctive character across their freshman full length, We Were Set Up… [he] enjoins the listener with emphatic aural probity, a vocal sincerity that is often matched by equally cogent violin and piano accompaniment.
— Brandon Forbes, Chi-Town Daily News, May 11, 2006
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…pop phenoms… The sextet’s meticulous orchestrations of violin, guitar, trombone, keyboard, and even clarinet adorn lyrical, buoyant pop tunes, recalling the delicacy of Belle and Sebastian and the lush, upbeat melodies of the Shins.
— Flavorpill, April 18 - 24, 2006
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Imagine the prize musicians from six adjacent counties’ high school orchestras growing up and coalescing to form a pop band inspired by Queen, Kraftwerk, and Nick Drake… a brisk sort of chamber-pop, with violins and clarinet swirling around Priest’s clear-toned voice, which can be as percussive as it is melodic… Each song is a barrage of hooks and nuanced performances… Lindau’s violin shines throughout the album, though everyone gets more than their share of standout moments… [Canasta’s] value to the pop music scene continues to grow as it broadens both its geographical and musical reach.
— Michael Metivier, PopMatters, April 13, 2006
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Critic’s Pick… a great local band… lush indie-pop orchestrations…
— Chicago Tribune, April 10, 2006
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…further proof of the city’s indie-rock renaissance…
— Time Out Chicago, April 6-13, 2006
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…lush, enthralling pop music… excellent full-length debut…
— Gapers Block, April 3, 2006
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Canasta’s music succeeds because the arrangements are carefully considered and bring out the flavor in the material rather than drown it in a wall of sound… Rather than trap itself in a chamber pop box, the sextet tosses in the occasional nod at country and rocks just enough to wake the neighbors… [We Were Set Up] is an unequivocal delight full of slavish devotion to melodic pop song structures… if there’s a better song than ‘Slow Down Chicago’ to accompany a ride on the El, we haven’t heard it.
— Scott Smith, Chicagoist, April 3, 2006
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a sextet that finely lines its songs with a multitude of instruments and obscures traditional pop structures to create miniature blockbusters built for the head and heart… Canasta is not designed for comparisons, as these songs take big drives into the territories of soul, twee pop, rock and country without fully becoming any of them. What makes their music so compelling is the opulence of their group dynamic. On this debut, the songs become the band, not the other way around…
— Mark Guarino, The Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 10, 2006
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One of Chicago’s most promising and hardest working bands… We Were Set Up finds the band expanding on the chamber pop formula of 2003’s Find the Time EP by writing more mature and exciting arrangements… Hearing the best of Canasta’s recorded repertoire in one setting makes me again believe this band has the potential to join the ranks of its heroes…
— Joseph Simek, Illinois Entertainer, February 28, 2006
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For their full-length album debut, We Were Set Up (Broken Middle C), Canasta plays their cards right by expanding on what made their EP Find The Time so charming. Matt Priest’s vocals and the band’s solid musicianship, bring Priest’s delightful baker’s dozen pop tunes to vivid life.
— Gregg Shapiro, Chicago FreePress, February 8, 2006
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All in all, Canasta made impressive work of combining their talents to create one full sound. Putting all the Belle and Sebastian comparisons aside, the group maintained symphonic balance to an impressive degree while cycling through many different nuances and styles.
— Andrea Myers, HowWasTheShow?, January 27, 2006
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4 Stars… an accessible indie-pop sound that’s familiar but enjoyable because of the band’s enthusiasm and creativity… Canasta’s sense of what makes for quality music is evident with just one listen.
— Jessica Tonti, The Pitt Times (Pittsburgh, PA), January 23, 2006
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Best Songs of 2005: ‘Slow Down Chicago’ - Canasta
— WXRT’s “Local Anesthetic” (Chicago, IL), January 8, 2006
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…a tremendous show… Canasta kicked the night off with their full, fat sound… Their three best performances invoked a feeling of gliding on Lake Shore Drive near midnight… Showing their range, most of the band shouted out the chorus of ‘Microphone Song,’ which used a driving beat and a rising melody to raise the audience’s energy level.
— Alex Mechlin, Lumino Magazine, January 2, 2006
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…smart pop nirvana… Canasta has a sound that fits in easily with a lot of contemporary acts — for example, they’d sound great stacked next to The Decemberists or Death Cab For Cutie — but stands out by having established a specific personality and sound, aided by a winning frontman. It’s good this album is coming to everyone’s attention at this point in time, as it is an album that you can live with and hear new things from throughout the year.
— Mike Bennett, Fufkin, January, 2006
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…there is a relaxed, positive mood to some of the songs which complements the meticulously arranged instrumentals… catchy, bouncy melody without sacrificing any of the band’s lushness… infectious optimism…
— J.M. Grandy, The Depaulia (Chicago, IL), January, 2006
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…(part of) a new crop of creative, optimistic rock bands that are nurturing each other, using the city’s neighborly, DIY spirit to propel their own quiet indie-rock success stories… (one of) the brightest local stars…
— Flavorpill, December 27, 2005 - January 2, 2006
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Best Local Music of 2005… Musical diversity, quirkiness and loads of talent fuse into an eclectic 13-song set that is indelibly stylish and hard to pin down… The considerable buzz about Canasta is not just hype, as this CD attests.
— Tom Lounges, Northwest Indiana Times / Midwest Beat Magazine, December 18, 2005
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…fantastic full-length debut… they harness the chaos of collective creative sources into something incredibly tight and consistently good throughout 13 tracks of pop goodness… easily accessible but layered and interesting enough to be a fresh sound for indie pop.
— Julie Lawrence,, December 15, 2005
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Out of nowhere come a band from Chicago that sound ready for primetime right out of the box. They’re just about to release their full-length debut and it’s quite impressive. A bit sprawling in a Wilco sort of way with touches of Arcade Fire, We Were Set Up could sneak its way onto some year-end top ten lists.
— Real Detroit Weekly, December 7-13, 2005

Chicago popsters Canasta, who recently released We Were Set Up, an enjoyable excursion in calm indie-ness, already made a name for itself before the record was released… Matt Priest’s vocals are strong… The keyboard work, however, stands out as the highlight, as the album’s best songs are backed by a Farfisa-like sound.
— Tom Lynch, New City (Chicago, IL), December 8, 2005
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CANASTA sounded like one of Chicago’s best pop bands even before they made a record… We Were Set Up doesn’t disappoint… they work a melody the way a metal band works a riff, as both a signature and a weapon.
— Monica Kendrick, The Chicago Reader, November 18, 2005
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…captures the eclectic nature of the band’s songbook. The sound is hummable music with layered, unpredictable arrangements…
— Mary Houlihan, Chicago Sun-Times, November 18, 2005

Thanks to the success of bands like The Arcade Fire and The Decemberists, Chicago’s Canasta could fare well… We Were Set Up brims with bright, lush melodies, a suitably askew mix of instruments and smartly constructed songs that balance traditional pop and indie-minded subversiveness. The band is self-releasing We Were Set Up, but it begs for the attention of a big label.
— The Onion, November 17-23, 2005
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…sounding at once simple and meticulously plotted… the result is transcendent… earnest, literate and lonely in all the right spots… We Were Set Up is exemplary gentle pop, never cloying and almost always catchy as heck.
— Jeff Pizek, The Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 17, 2005
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…one of Chicago’s sweetest songsmith-indebted rock bands…
— Flavorpill, November 15-21, 2005
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Canasta brings together a myriad of instruments and plays them all with precision and purpose… It all results in one of the most vibrant pop sounds to emerge from Chicago in years.
— Evan Clossin, UR Magazine (Chicago, IL), November, 2005
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…it will seduce you…
— (Toulouse, France), October 25, 2005
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We Were Set Up could be described as nothing less than blissful… their flirtatious playing of strings, horns and percussions, joined by an unpredictable melody and the fluid vocals of lead singer Matt Priest, could easily attract a diverse grouping of fans… Canasta has a way of layering the romantic ear candy atop heavier substance… They are a post-modern band void of irony… they aren’t trying to change the world with their music, but a revolution just might ensue…
— Alice Merchant, The Badger Herald (Madison, WI), October 5, 2005
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…on the cusp of national acclaim… believe the hype…
— Craig Bonnell, songs:illinois, September 28, 2005
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…delightful Chicago chamber pop…
— Coreweekly (Madison, WI), July 7, 2005

Canasta could be classified as piano pop, violin rock, chamber music, or somewhere between horn-drenched jazz and twang-glazed country. But all these boundary-pushing players ask is that listeners don’t confine their experimental blend to the ‘indie rock’ box.
— Andy Argyrakis, Chicago Tribune, June 24, 2005
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…hard to categorize, but one of the most promising local acts I’ve seen in a while…
— Michael Bennett, Chicagomuzik, April 20, 2005
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With six members and more instruments than I can wrap my head around, Canasta seems to make sure that no sound gets left behind… Rather than constantly pounding the listener over the head, the band lets the listener get taken in. While most bands that try to do this end up boring the listener, Canasta manages not to.
— Brandon Wetherbee, The Depaulia (Chicago, IL), April, 2005
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…pushing beyond the regular boundaries of pop music…
— INtake (Indianapolis, IN), March 10, 2005
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Hammer’s Pick… excellent…
— Steve Hammer, NUVO (Indianapolis, IN), March 9-16, 2005

A Chicago outfit just starting to make waves nationally… Canasta plays bright and catchy songs to stick in your head… ‘Slow Down Chicago’ is a bouncy paean to the City of Broad Shoulders… ‘Just a Star’ is Midwestern night music, riding Megan O’Connor’s piano and Elizabeth Lindau’s violin to bittersweet effect… The arrangements are smart and efficient, reminiscent of the Pernice Brothers if every day was Game 7 of 2004’s ACLS.
— Michael Metivier, PopMatters, December 30, 2004
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Find the Time is a brilliant piece of work… This is a group to keep your eye on… Their sound amazes me… astonishing melodies and powerful vocals… I would unquestionably recommend seeing this band…
— Melinda Herrin, College of Lake County Chronicle (Grayslake, IL), December 10, 2004

…blissful chamber pop… the band cleverly uses nearly any instrument it can get its hands on…
— Trevor Fisher, Illinois Entertainer, December, 2004
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Find The Time by Canasta is a lovely disc of pop tunes buoyed by strings, keyboards and kept aloft by Matt Priest’s strong vocals.
— Gregg Shapiro, Chicago FreePress, November 17, 2004

The album’s lead track, ‘Slow Down Chicago,’ is an infectious love song to the city and highlights an album filled with organs, pianos, violins, and trombones. Here’s hoping Canasta finds the time to record a full-length very soon.
— Joseph Simek, Illinois Entertainer, July, 2004

I was excited when I heard ‘Slow Down Chicago,’ Find the Time’s opening track. I was hooked from the opening organ chords all the way through to the swelling climax of horns and violin. Matt Priest’s vocals, slightly reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright, were convincingly emotive without being melodramatic, and the instrumentation was pure chamber pop bliss.
— Andy Crissinger, Splendid, June 23, 2004
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There’s another cool Chicago anthem on Find the Time, a splendid five-song EP by the chamber pop sextet Canasta, as well as a killer cover of ‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk, emphasizing the key hook with violin instead of synthesizer. (The band also makes liberal use of piano and trombone.)
— Jim DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times, May 24, 2004
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Opener Canasta is a perfect fit [for our Empty Bottle show with Beauty Pill]: The local group’s debut EP Find the Time cycles gently through keyboard-heavy indie-pop, even treading lightly on a cover of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model.’
— The Onion, April 22-28, 2004

These locals get the most out of the unprepossessing songs on Find the Time, their self-released debut EP: they emphasize each melody as though nothing else matters, then use keyboards and violin to make sure no flourish or fill possibility goes unexplored. It makes for a lovely, lilting sound, and numerous local references place this chamber pop in the city we actually live in, not some idealized upper-crust bower.
— Monica Kendrick, Chicago Reader, January 23, 2004

2003 Best of Chicago’s Unsigned Artists
— Illinois Entertainer, January, 2004

Find the Time captures the melding of guitar, piano, violin, and trombone. The songs gradually build in a slow burn, eventually igniting a chamber-pop explosion.
— Steve Edwards, WBEZ’s “Eight Forty-Eight,” December 1, 2003
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