By: Sarah Moore
Australia's The Cat Empire has released an album fused with their signature smattering of funk, soul, ska, jazz, hip-hop and rock called So Many Nights (released April 22 on Velour Recordings). The numbers of influences might at first glance seem to be fairly overwhelming, but The Cat Empire covers all those bases without trying too hard.
The disc begins with the title track party tune as lead vocalist-bandleader Felix Riebl calls the shots with sung rapping vocals amidst a group of backing vocalists, frenetic percussion and effusive, funky organ. At times, Riebl's vocals recall G. Love. With a huge ensemble, The Cat Empire can pull off the "big band" vibe quite well. After all, the cast includes a horn section (The Empire Horns) and string section (The Empire Strings), two lead singers and a DJ, among others. Although the next track, "Panama," slows to a folk crawl, the speed resumes on "Fishes" with a calypso piano and Harry James Angus' trumpet wailing. Since the album's title refers to the band's nights spent touring, the excitable energy makes sense. "You get to a point, living like that, where it really gets hard to distinguish between what's happening and what's a dream," says Riebl. However, So Many Nights is less about the party than the band's earlier discs have been. Instead of packing every moment with explosions, the band has honed their sound, cutting out the excesses.
Angus, the other lead singer, delivers British-accented, meaty vocals on "Lonely Moon," a tune that sounds more Steely Dan than Afrobeat. The two vocalists appear in contrast on a few selections like "Til the Ocean Takes Us All." Angus begins the song with a Destroyer-esque introduction to Riebl's eventual ska breakdown. Although this disc is less party oriented than their previous releases, So Many Nights is still the background music to the coolest shindig happening.
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