About MAKE LIKE (2015):
It's not flashy, it's not trendy, but like a good friend, the time you spend in its company will be handsomely rewarded.
-Tim Clarke, Dots and Loops, My favourite records of 2015
Make Like feels like a culmination of all that’s come before it – a distillation of an aesthetic and a refinement of purpose. Just shy of forty minutes, the album is astute, economical, meticulously performed and produced, and deeply affecting, both lyrically and musically. It’s a thoroughly satisfying whole, an unselfconsciously classic-sounding record with masterful segues and a neat division into two sides that no doubt rewards listening on vinyl...
A thread of heartening resilience runs through Make Like‘s atmosphere of confusion and frustration, while the balance it sustains between the widescreen and the intimate rewards repeat listens with fresh revelations.
-Tim Clarke, [sic] Magazine
...a gem of hazy, off-kilter atmospheric pop. Think Jesus and Mary Chain sharing a hookah with MGMT and you get the picture.
-Jim Kaz, New Noise Magazine
straight up amazing... a straight-forward blend of Gang of Four-ish edginess (albeit with softer corners) along with the most palatable of pre-hiatus Dismemberment Plan’s harmonies. It’s catchy, but with plenty of turns and minors, upbeat but not exactly hip-shaking.
-Jacob An Kittenplan, Cassette Gods
The truest success of Make Like is that one can physically hear in it a musician who has found a group of fellow makers with whom he can realize the sounds in his head in ways he’s maybe never been able to bring to fruition before. There is comfort here, heads on shoulders, a long iron bar of time bent and flattened and curled on itself into a circle...
...this may not be their last album, but if it is, I can’t think of a better way for them to go out. Complete and unfettered, it’s like a story so well told it almost achieves a kind of cosmic symmetry. Let this be the place we use to mark their time in our lives, them giving us their best and us giving them our appreciation.
-Dom Sinacola, Cokemachineglow
brainy, nuanced pop
-Philip Montoro, Chicago Reader
If there are ghosts on Roommate's new album—Make Like, released in June on Strange Weather—Lambert never addresses them by name. His new lyrics are free-associative and darkly playful, cast against a fevered backdrop of psychedelic art-pop.
-Sasha Geffen, Chicago Reader
Quem também está de volta é Kent Lambert e o seu peculiar Roommate. “Secret Claw” traz um pouco do soturno som que Ned Collette conseguiu trazer anos atrás com uma maturidade nos arranjos e nos vocais que até então era mais bedroom pop. Linda melodia, arranjos honestamente maduros, clipe sensacional e uma viagem flutuante por terras totalmente desconhecidas e escuras.
-Denis Fujito, Suppaduppa, 5 músicas da semana – 28/06
The band is ostensibly a pop ensemble built around Kent Lambert's songwriting, but we use "pop" loosely here. The hooks are off kilter and many of the song have a weird, tilting and slightly disorienting feel to them. This is power pop viewed through a smoky glass reflecting a slightly alternate dimension. It resembles pop music, but it's heart shuffles and lurches instead of beating in an expected fashion.
-Jim Kopeny, Chicagoist
On the track “People on Screens” local indie-pop project Roommate observes those who have grown from children playing outside into adults glued to reality TV. Like reality programming the opening track is alternately alluring and terrifying—or maybe just terrifyingly alluring—as the band pulls together dub hand claps, spindly organ melodies, and what sounds like howling wind to create a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere with fine, lighter-than-air melodies. “People on Screens” sets the standard for Roommate’s fourth album, the brand-new Make Like (Strange Weather). Front man and founder Kent Lambert isn’t afraid to explore the darkness of contemporary society, which enriches Roommate’s whimsical, lush music. The group hits the mark with “Wilderness,” a stark piano-led number that blossoms into a lovely psych-pop tune and rises like the sun.
-Leor Galil, Chicago Reader
Roommate was birthed as a solo project in New York City around the turn of the new millennium and, like any idea with a shred of merit, grew and evolved into something bigger and more ambitious. Now a 4-piece with a new hometown in Chicago, Roommate have returned after 4 years with their 4th full-length.
Roommate are hard to pin down. The brainchild of Kent Lambert, the group teeters on the thin line between pop and avant-garde. Their 2008 album We Were Enchanted leaned towards the latter, plodding through surreal lyrics and minimal electronic palpitations. The first single off the new album, however, swings the pendulum towards more pop-oriented melodies. Secret Claw glides through gentle acoustic loops and reverberating pianos, a major departure from 7 years ago. Fans of Austin’s Royal Forest and early Built to Spill will love the stuffing out of this album.
15 years strong, Roommate is obviously doing something right.
-David Hampton, Sly Vinyl
About Guilty Rainbow (2011):
Unsettling pop with just the right balance of sweet and sour that begs another listen before the needle's barely lifted.
-Areif Sless-Kitain, TimeOut Chicago (Best Chicago Albums of 2011)
A wonderfully atmospheric art pop record that will reward you on repeated listens. Grandaddy and Sparklehorse are the obvious comparisons, but there is something deeper here. The songwriting is top notch and the album closes with one of the best covers of a Guided By Voices song you are likely to hear.
-Peter Zimmerman, Huffington Post (Best Chicago Music of 2011)
Guilty Rainbow is probably about a lot of things: war, being against war, Middle America, being Middle American, the futility of being a Middle American, and assorted other causes. But mostly, Guilty Rainbow seems to be about having a cause, about living with that cause, or causes, every day despite nothing much changing for the cause’s sake. Having a cause, after all, endless causes even, to wield with such a distinctively muscular voice can be a lot to ask from whomever’s listening and whatever music is expected to support it. It’s a monumental accomplishment that Roommate wholeheartedly, and not effortlessly, craft songs that never seem too easy but never dump that weight on our backs... From synths, vibraphones, the lounge-like tisks of a cymbal, the expanding chimes of “August Song,” to a percussive beat that seems concocted from the sticky suction of a shoe lifting off a theater’s floor—none of it fails to resonate. It’s a complicated but easy relationship Roommate forms: even that robot-heartbeat percussion seems to have warm blood pumping through it.
-Kaylen Hann, Cokemachineglow (Top 50 Albums of 2011)
Admittedly, Guilty Rainbow isn’t really a ‘concept album,’ and yet it’s got more of an arc and sense of unspoken redemption than most contemporary albums that parade themselves as such. It’s also one of those rare albums that starts out great and gets better over its 45-minute length.
-Collin Anderson, Tiny Mixtapes
Chicago via Brooklyn’s Kent Lambert has been recording under the name Roommate for about a decade, but now has a set of collaborators playing along with his moody electronic compositions, giving some serious depth to his already strong songwriting. Despite the companionate band name, and the significance of the group on this record, the importance of isolation, unusual fragility, and unanswerable questions are the more vital, weighty issues at hand.
-Adam Kivel, Consequence Of Sound (4 of 5 stars)
The tracks on Roommate’s new Guilty Rainbow often follow a pattern — foreboding, albeit calm, intros, with Lambert trying to keep a lid on his inner turmoil as the music escalates, and then an inevitable breakdown in both sound and singer. Yet the somewhat predictable execution of songs does not diminish the project’s unconventionalism. Guitar rock is turned on its head with electronic landmines and further distorted with the likes of vibraphone, banjo, autoharp and violin. And for his part, Lambert is appropriately volatile at the microphone, creating an unlikely co-dependency between man and machine.
-Chuck Campbell, Knoxville News Sentinel
"Guilty Rainbow is a culminating step forward for Chicago’s Roommate... Kent Lambert, the man behind the words and music, has finally consolidated his band into a consistent four-piece, and Guilty Rainbow bears the marks of a more active level of cooperation among the contributors. Bassist Gillian Lisée, multi-instrumentalist Luther Rochester and drummer Seth Vanek add a welcome bit of musical muscle to Lambert’s understated vocals and forceful lyrics... the new release finds Lambert cultivating his strengths—a no-frills delivery and fluid, organic verses that roll into one another with an easy inevitability."also on Popmatters: "After the Boom: An Interview with Roommate"
-Dylan Nelson, Popmatters
"The full orchestration of Roommate’s arrangements, which often include strings or banjos or any number of sundry instruments, never grows to a weighty density, but revels in its own understatement. That suits Lambert, though. His voice sticks to a mid-range croon, and delivers his wry lines dryly. Though Roommate has grown to a full band that favors larger, multi-part arrangements, the band has never shed its bedroom origins. This is headphones music, rainy day music, quiet longing music."
-B. Reed, Columbia Free-Times
"Roommate’s keyboard-and-drum-based tracks often seem cautiously bemused. It’s not just the floating-but-not-spacey sonic décor of nearly funky shuffling folk-pop, heavy-weighted quasi-rhythms or effects that are lightly industrial (i.e., tape-machine abuse and studio squonks). Kent Lambert sings as if he just discovered a lost song-trove of prime-period Todd Rundgren and early Steely Dan piano ballads, but his band helps him imbue the results with the not-quite-post-irony that has come around in the intervening years. Ultimately, of course, this is all Brian Wilson’s fault, but the Chicago-based Roommate likely won’t directly reveal that when they play Zanzabar — they’ll be too busy re-creating the odd, headphones-demanding sound of its new album, Guilty Rainbow."
-T.E. Lyons, LEO Weekly
"...the album is a seething exercise in survivalist restraint, like “Trust No One” manifest as a cold, sad reality of existence. Like the pre-cannibal knowing full well what the Apocalypse holds. Like the cannibal in the post-Apocalyptic wasteland who can only stomach feeding off himself.
Guilty Rainbow still seems to be about activism, imperialism, our dying world, and being the activist who insufferably bemoans U.S. imperialist actions all across our dying world, but it feels like it’s about struggling with the grand existential weight of caring in the first place. It’s all in the title, Guilty Rainbow: the shift in perspective required to feel OK about oneself in times like these; something briefly simple and good overshadowed by something eternally difficult and bad… bad like a devastating storm, or war, or heartbreak, or crappy top 40 radio, or an endlessly talented musician seemingly never able to catch a break, or a seemingly endlessly talented musical criticism site that just can’t get its shit together. Guilty Rainbow harnesses everyday grievance and bakes sweet, magnanimous pop music from its evil ohms.
Guilty Rainbow is one of the most rewarding “growers” I’ve come across this year, an album that revels in texture and instrumental glut—from vibraphones to violins, autoharps to Music Easels, key-tars to Game Boys—while terrified of indulging either one.
Guilty Rainbow is a fantastic achievement from a band that’s always had one in them, and as I said before in so many words that I’ll now say again in so many different ones: there is little else more gratifying in being a fan of music than watching a musician, with every successive album, build upon his or her potential in such an exquisite, dedicated way that everything about their music is now a magnificent improvement over what came before. Roommate’s third album is all that. And if I’m allowed any advice regarding the impending Final Days: it’s worth whatever time you have left."
-Dom Sinacola, Cokemachineglow
"...a careful tension exists throughout the album, something where everything seems on the verge of fraying, from structure to sentiment; there's a genteel, suffused sonic air that makes everything seem sunny, but the sentiments and sounds are often anything but -- guitars as nervous scrapes, deep-voiced murmurs and moans, lyrics that betray confusion and unsureness, even as everything grooves along."
-Ned Raggett, All Music Guide
...a semi-depressing tour de force, lush with loneliness and rife with repression.
-Marah Eakin, A.V. Club Chicago
An autumnal tint haunts this collection, like the ominous moan snaking through “Soft Eyes” and “Ghost Pigeon.” Washy undertones throb beneath more organic textures, all of it flecked with unpredictable electronics. Lambert’s a gifted lyricist, examining over and again his unique set of curiosities in these quirky arrangements. When he floats the dark lyric “We won’t feel better / When the winds of change have changed to lazy clouds” on the simmering glitch-pop nugget “Snow Globe,” it’s hard not to get lost in the ennui. Credit Roommate with crafting an album that’s as creepy as it is catchy, even if it is the most cynical thing this side of a Steely Dan record.
-Areif Sless-Kitain, TimeOut Chicago
Almost orchestral in its use of unusual instrumentation and sounds, Roommate layers its way toward a twisted vision of pop perfection. At times, these songs actually achieve levitation.
-Jon Worley, Aiding & Abetting
Where groups like Mercury Rev and The Silent League conjure up images of fantasy worlds, Roommate’s songs have a familiarity which is entirely earthbound. 'Guilty Rainbow’ is a lesson in how to expand your musical ambition without losing the ability to convey intimacy.
-Jonathan Leonard, Leonard's Lair
It's not often that you can recommend a band to both Neil Young fanatics and Air fans. But Roommate splits the difference between intriguing, sometimes wistful lyricism and dark, dreamy electronic soundscapes.
-Ben Rubinstein, Centerstage Chicago, May 28, 2010
About We Were Enchanted (2008):
The album title, We Were Enchanted, holds all the keys. It starts with fantasy not as escapism but introspection and ends with a promising new direction for groupthink. Lambert finds enchantment not in fantasy outside of reality but in the strange fantasies that teem beneath reality, the oozing stuff that dreams are made of. To explore this territory on a purely personal level is indulgent in an honorable enough, sabbatical-type way but to join with a host of peers in mining those depths for some kind of transcendent commonality, some communion, some community…that shit’s dangerously close to sublime.
-Chet Betz, Cokemachineglow (best of 2008 write-up)
The songs build and grow, only collapsing just before they've reached their zenith; it's a living, breathing work, one that develops and grows with the passage of time and with the listener, a complete but not completed picture, leaving room for interpretation and exploration and all the other things that make truly good music so lasting...
- Marisa Brown, All Music Guide
...lush, subtly textured mini-symphonies of pop abandon.
—Jennifer Kelly, Popmatters
...mature, serious rock like Joel Phelps-era Silkworm as pushed through a computer.
—Doug Mosurock, Dusted
...When Lambert and the band sing “We’re all real tired of the shitty stuff,” the words seem to sum up their determination to survive and even be happy in a hopelessly messed-up world, pursuing the kind of modest, local, cooperative effort that’s helped Roommate flourish.
- Miles Raymer, Chicago Reader
We Were Enchanted sees the Chicago collective taking a huge step forward and truly embracing their spirit. While Kent is still the principle songwriter, the whole album simply feels like a whole album, as made by likeminded people grooving on their own vibe.
- Alan Ranta, Tiny Mix Tapes
Kent Lambert and Co. are well known for combining acoustic songwriting akin to Neil Young with disparate electronic rhythms. We Were Enchanted finds the Chicago-based band doing more of this, and lyrically, Roommate is at its best here, exploring weighty subjects about the times in which we live, but completely avoiding condescension.
- Jennifer Marston, XLR8R
If we rolled credits here, the credits would be a simple font, white on black, all-caps with just the slightest serif curls, like Spring had begun to flower (which it has), like today had begun to tomorrow (which it has), like our lovers all sing in birdsong (which they do), like our whistles are small hymns (which they are), like a gathering of friends, all singing together, is equal to a climax, is all you need in a life to make it a story, to make it have mattered & rung, rung, rung.
- Sean Michaels, Said the Gramophone
About New Steam (2007):
Really, this [Shrug Records limited edition 10"] is a piece of art to own.
- James Ziegenfus, Transmission @ Gaper's Block
It's an interesting move from Songs the Animals Taught Us, focusing more on chords and orchestral-like arrangements rather than computerized wanderings, and, at least in four tracks, promises for an interesting future.
- Marisa Brown, All Music Guide
About Songs The Animals Taught Us (2006):
...as you listen the beats become stranger, more compelling and more fragmented, and lyrics that at first seem harmlessly nonsensical turn out to be full of barbs about consumerism and life in wartime. It's a somewhat inscrutable album, and one that never fully declares its purpose or settles into any easily graspable pattern, but it's a more intriguing listen for that inscrutability.
- Thomas Bartlett, Salon.com, July 11, 2006
Lambert's political convictions do not detract from his distinctive musical talent. He succeeds in creative combinations involving a fuzzy, synthesized percussion underneath live instruments like banjo, saw, and xylophone, that blend together to define Roommate's signature sound-an intelligently arranged digitized symphony.
- JR, RE:UP Manual #11, July 2006