100% of Roommate's September-November 2018 Bandcamp proceeds to benefit the Chicago Community Bond Fund. www.chicagobond.org
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)
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.
...Guilty Rainbow harnesses everyday grievance and bakes sweet, magnanimous pop music from its evil ohms.
-Dom Sinacola, Cokemachineglow
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.
-Dylan Nelson, Popmatters
...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
We’ve all of us, of course, read, in a daunting, large old book, on page #1, about how “a screaming comes across the sky….” but what you’re now holding, reading about, is a shout in a shell that wants to detonate within, where you live, and rather in a host of tingling ways.
It’s an OK explosion, though. Guilty Rainbow presents a variegated arch of recordings about how detonation can, after all, be melodic, that a thing can be gentle without being weak and can be sweet without being saccharine. What is done here is done well...and in typical Roommate thinking—it's done in beautiful taste. Kent Lambert and a battalion of live-in compatriots have been taping up rainbows not of gravity but of certain kinds of penitence.
Long lyrics ago, Mr. Lambert launched the writerly part of self at isolation as theme, incarceration even; but his inmate set of dauntless songs, SOFT EYES like a spear’s tip, broke free; turned 180s; talked back to their author; got remanded to his custody. And eventually taught the resulting album to ignore cages of genre, the cells imposed by Sides A & B, to play and pray and pay, if not in that order.
Instead, tracks collected here, MY BAD for one, throw heavy-heart parties that bleed through in time to other people’s ceilings.
GHOST PIGEON warbles loping electronics in shards, shouting out an (ad)mission statement, of sorts.
First of two outside voices tried on by Roommate for size, Ned Collette’s THE COUNTRY WITH A SMILE emerges hypothermiac from a swim in some frozen synthetic creek; it’s looking to become less alone in secret room TV oblivion.
LDS, Mr. Lambert’s one-sided imaginary dialogue with another cold-weather lyricist, is a meeting of paces glacial. Topics: the religious rigor in someone you revere, even fear; listening hard, too; standing awestruck at another artist’s courage; rabid fandom.
Moments here sit nearby well-hewn forms. It was Carl Saff who, in mastering Guilty Rainbow as a tour of pop topographies, fingered its “soul song” in seconds; FLICKER FLAME, sort of coldly dejected to be called out, knew it’d be damned as such but didn’t know when. Because whatever Roommate does, Roommate does with strong feeling, and this is what communicates itself. Some people call it soul… that ability to share feelings. Roommate has that. Even so, our research reveals no other soul recordings, neo- or otherwise, that feature sounds harvested from Nintendo’s quickly fossilizing Gameboy handheld unit. How’s that for play and pray?
Speaking of “fossilizing units”: Tell every living friend you have that you’ve now heard Luther Rochester and his inscrutable Buchla Music Easel, at points within. Your intrepid author of these very notes could identify its sound only with exacting assistance from the recording artists themselves. Such arcane instrumentation, that corralling of age-old electrons into regiments fresh and shiny, reflect in this album today's spirit of musical pioneering. Lesser lights will attempt to imitate it, and it will open new directions in record making. Buchla’s Easel, though, tends to disdain directions themselves, despite this essential truth: Housed in a rugged aluminum case, the Music Easel is built to travel.
You may’ve caught the term “collective” in its dogged pursuit of Roommate, mostly in a decade now gone; but call them a band these days, of four, if you would: Kent Lambert, early keytar re-adopter, belter, crooner; Luther Rochester, synthesizer of analogs and keeper of vibes; Seth Vanek strikes metal and membrane in time, with measured joy; Gillian Lisée voices in the depth, plucks the lowest strings the band can find. These four had accomplices, of course.
Roommate, then, itself, resists fusion but has succumbed. Still: Our era has been marked by a fusion of musical cultures; by the creation of a richer American music through this sort of combinatory evolution. In this album we have a dramatic illustration of this thesis. Like Chicago seasons, Guilty Rainbow hates to ever be one kind of thing at once. Listeners: take note of whether thoughtful pop here recalls the arrangement of icons that prove a year’s passing.
Look to AUGUST SONG’s descending drums, percussed tones, strings in confused teams, failing to fall into step as the season darkens into a distracted pop.
And to the verses of Robert Pollard’s SMOTHERED IN HUGS (if chestnuts come in lo-fi), which here wears digital hymn strands invented someplace older than the song itself, a cooed 2nd vocal by Gillian Lisée tethering deep lyrical doubt to shaky ground. Watch a record ache to feel full in the end...even though there’s been something eating everyone...
Is it that—that gnawing sense that coloring has gone on outside lines—that makes Roommate want to move out, and make these moves inward, and also worry some about the bedroom pop walls it’s broken through and the messes left in kitchens across its own Midwest? And then, even so, never think too hard, too long, about going very far away any time soon? And opt instead to see what repairs can be made to its new compartment, from inside the compartment itself?
The results await your decision. If, however, the annotator of a liner note is given the privilege of passing on personal comment, then allow this writer to say that Roommate has done it again. Even he is left to wonder, though: What exactly has Roommate done?
- Judson Picco, expert Roommate listener, looking also through a pile of old LPs, Horner Park Fieldhouse, 2011
released March 22, 2011
Kent Lambert: vocals (all), digital synths (all), electronic drum programming (1-2, 4-5, 7-8, 10), Moog bass (1,6, 8), Wurlitzer (2), Rhodes (3), Gameboy (3), trumpet (3, 8), Casio (5,8), banjo (8), tambourine/shaker (8).
Gillian Lisée: bass guitar (1-4, 6-9), vocals (4, 7, 9, 10).
Luther Rochester: Buchla Music Easel (1, 3-4, 6, 8-10), vibraphone (2-3, 6-7, 9), Moog (1,7), saxophone (3,8), cymbal/bell tree (10).
Seth Vanek: drums (all), percussion (most), vocals (4), Juno synth (4), electric guitar (4), acoustic guitar (7), Moog (6), autoharp (7, 10), prepared piano (8), sleigh bell (10).
Gerard Barreto: bass guitar (8). Bart de Kroon: guitar (10). Erica Dicker: violin (2, 4, 5). Anton Hatwich: upright bass (10). Cody Hennesy: clarinet (1), pedal drone/guitar (8). Dave Miller: guitar (6). Dan Peck: tuba/vocals/beatboxing (5). Justin Petertil: guitar (2, 9). "Uncle" Woody Sullender: banjo (9). Frank Van Duerm: software synth programming (6).
All songs by Kent Lambert & Roommate (ASCAP) except "THE COUNTRY WITH A SMILE" by Ned Collette, Bughouse (ASCAP) o/b/o Native Tongue Music Pty. Limited d/b/a Ruapapa Music (ASCAP), "GHOST PIGEON" by Kent Lambert & Roommate (ASCAP) & Frank Van Duerm and "SMOTHERED IN HUGS" by Robert E. Pollard Jr., James B. Pollard & Charles M. Mitchell III (BMI).
Recorded in Chicago, IL at Glamour Studios, Haddrock, Carterco Recording (with Jamie Carter), and Strobe Recording (with Jamie Wagner) and in New Buffalo, MI at The Roger Brown House, December 2008 to May 2010. Mixed by Gerard Barreto and Roommate at SOMA Electronic Music Studios (with Andrew Hernandez) and mastered by Carl Saff, July 2010.
Produced by: Gerard Barreto and Roommate.
Cover image by Frank Van Duerm.
Back cover layout and design by Alexander Stewart.
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