“Rockland” solid album despite falling short of previous releases

Zeke Polken, Copy Editor

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Back in 2013, I discovered four-piece Norwegian folk/cabaret/rock/pop girl group Katzenjammer online, and had them on repeat for essentially the rest of my junior year. Despite being virtually unknown in the USA, their unique sound, as well as the fact that all four band members play 10+ instruments each in addition to singing, won me over.

The band’s name means “cat’s wail” or “discordant sound” in German, and their first two albums, “Le Pop” and “A Kiss Before You Go,” lived up to the name. When firing up “Rockland” on YouTube, I was expecting something similar to some of my favorite tracks of theirs: “Demon Kitty Rag,” “To The Sea” and “Tea With Cinnamon,” all from “Le Pop.” All three of these tracks are extremely manic and catchy, and unlike anything else I’ve ever heard in music.

Their second album, “A Kiss Before You Go,” although a bit more relaxed, still had some insane tracks and every song was unique, catchy, and creative. So, naturally, I had very high expectations for “Rockland,” especially since it took them four years to release it.

Only one single was released before the album, “Lady Grey.” This track was sweet and had a catchy, acoustic folk sound, which I liked a lot. However, it was a bit subdued, and none of the intriguing instruments of theirs like the accordion, clarinet or trumpet were present.

“Lady Grey” made me feel like the album would follow in the single’s footsteps and be much more laid-back and acoustic, and sure enough, it was. The first track “Old de Spain” was quite slow, and despite having interesting lyrics, it was over five minutes long, and seemed to go on for much longer than I would’ve liked without any sort of build-up or tempo change.

“Curvaceous Needs” boasted bizarre lyrics (sort of like a warped version of “All About That Bass”) and was sung by my favorite of the vocalists, Marianne Sveen. Her voice sounded as great as usual in this track, and it ended up as one of my favorites of the album, since it was fast and really weird.

I could not help but notice the country music influences, though, mostly due to the large amounts of banjo and acoustic guitar in both “Curvaceous Needs” and “Old de Spain.” They did not sound bad, though, just an entirely different sound from what I was used to.

“Oh My God” was completely different, and reminded me of “Cocktails and Ruby Slippers” from the previous album: both had strange verses that were sung/talked, but a catchy chorus. The accordion in the background was nice as well.

After “Oh My God” and “Lady Grey,” which was the fourth track, came “My Own Tune,” which I liked quite a bit since it was upbeat and folky (which seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the album) but also still had the band’s unique charm. This was displayed when, out of nowhere in the bridge of the song, they started singing in Norwegian, which I was surprised it took them three albums to do.

When I got to the middle of the album, I was hoping the songs would not drag along and all sound the same, like what I have observed in the middle of other albums. None of the next few tracks were as great as some of the first few, but “Driving After You” once again showcased Sveen’s great voice in a more bluesy way.

I was disappointed to see that the closing song, which also had the same title as the album, was pretty boring. As is the case with their first two albums, their second-to-last track (in this case, “Bad Girl”) is extremely strong but then their closer is weak. The song “Rockland” was way too long for my tastes and didn’t really change at all, just staying at a very mellow constant the whole time.

“Rockland” by itself is an extremely solid album. The four band members’ voices are all different enough to provide a fairly unique taste on each track, and the lyrics are exceptional as always. The thing is, compared to the first two albums, I definitely found it the weakest. Maybe it is just because there weren’t as many musical styles present as there were in the first two (it seemed to be country, folk, and acoustic pop, and that’s about it), but something about it did not seem as satisfying as I had hoped.

Either way, “My Own Tune” and “Curvaceous Needs” are high-quality songs, and I feel like this album would be good for listeners who enjoy more peaceful and cheery music, as opposed to the insane, jazzy romps that make up most of my music taste. I give “Rockland” a 7/10.

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