Know Your Product
Celebration: Hello Paradise
Celebration pulls infinite possibilities from its electric tarot deck
Published: March 2, 2011
If you’re one of the who-knows-how-many Celebration fans who has been diligently downloading the free new tracks the band posted on its Electric Tarot web site over the past two years, now nine in all, here’s the chance to give something back: after three and a half years, a new Celebration record for which you can pay money. And enjoy spinning around on a turntable, as is proper. Or if you’re not hip to that or late to the game on the Electric Tarot, Hello Paradise is downloadable in its entirety on a pay-what-you-want basis.
The Celebration story of the past few years bears repeating, if briefly. The band was for two records signed to the big-deal, of-great-historical note label 4AD. The thing is that not all bands with albums on big indie labels like 4AD or Sub Pop become megacool and Pitchfork-adored. In any case, putting out two records on 4AD—and being buds with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek—didn’t exactly turn Celebration into a worldwide indie phenomenon. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t a number of people that recognize Celebration as the all-ruling band it is.
The band didn’t release a third record on 4AD. Instead, Celebration wrote songs, recorded them, and released them on their own via the Electric Tarot, most of which are accompanied by a video. The Electric Tarot manifesto goes: “Without the need for manufacturing CDs and the danse macabre of the promotional corporate machine, we can be free to release our music when and how we want—no waiting. We know nothing of the marketing world and don’t care about the vampires any more.”
Friends Records is anything but a vampire; it’s developed into one of the biggest boosters of Baltimore musical freethinking around. Those aforementioned downloading fans already know what a stunner Hello Paradise is. Maybe because they were the first two released, but “What’s This Magical?” and “I Will Not Fall” stand very tall, and give something of a quick primer in a few of the band’s polarities: the super-distilled sitar-led closet-Bollywood psych-rock of Paradise and the soulful, heartbreaking, unmoored indie-rock of 2007’s The Modern Tribe.
Like those on The Modern Tribe, Paradise’s favorites don’t immediately latch hold, a function of Celebration being an oddly subtle band, however pop-rooted the songs may be and however powerful a frontwoman Katrina Ford is. Songs tend to build, not toward climax and release but toward long, extended, ecstatic crests. Paradise’s “Great Pyramid” takes a full three minutes to heat up, and when it does, that final minute is a marvel of maintaining a song-beast so loose and powerful but grounded in the kind of soulfullness to which most new psych-rock bands of the day wouldn’t give a sneer.
It’s that soul that makes Celebration such a personal band. Maybe that’s why it never really caught that North Shore wave of indieground buzz. Maybe you’ve sat alone in a room with “Heartbreak” playing in the background, or steeled yourself the next day with “I Will Not Fall.” I might suggest the ineffable, gaze-y loveliness of “Shelter” for a first touch with someone. Songs to take to bed with you, and songs not to gawk at in a room, but songs to gather around. And most bands in this here cool world of musical echoes and reflections will never have that.
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