Indie Pop Dreamland
There are so many trends out there in today’s pop music and Keepsake, the new album from Brooklyn indie band Elizabeth and the Catapult, confidently follows none of them. Rather, it holds timeless appeal in its feel good pop compositions. Keepsake is the follow up to the band’s 2014 album Like it Never Happened. It doesn’t sound like an album made in 2017, in the best way possible. With a nostalgic quality found in the production and the sentiment in the lyrics, Keepsake is not trying to fit into the confines of a modern pop album. It brings to mind some of the daring pop work from artists like Sara Bareilles or Regina Spektor.
Keepsake contains the lyrical ideas that came to singer-songwriter, Elizabeth Ziman, in lucid dreams she experienced. She wrote them down in a dream journal with thoughts and memories of childhood, not set in any real time frame, that eventually became the themes that unite the songs on the album. On the concept, Ziman said, “It’s about how our feelings about the past inform our actions and choices in the future. But this is not just an album about regret; it’s an album about nostalgia and transformation.”
So much is done well in this album. The production is handled by her musical collaborators Dan Molad and Peter Lalish, along with Richard Swift of The Shins, whose studio in Portland was where the album was recorded. A lot of bright piano, warm strings and textured drums provide the backdrop for Ziman’s incredibly catchy melodies.
Starting with the standout track “Underwater,” it is evident that Elizabeth and the Catapult are capable of crafting indie pop classics. A steady, straight-ahead beat and a walking bass line make the song light and dance-y while Ziman sings on the chorus with a sense of reclamation, “I’m not afraid of sleeping like I used to be / Oh I can take to dreaming like a fish in the sea.”
“Something More” is a beautiful song featuring woozy vocals and shimmery strings. It builds from simple piano stabs and some sparse, delicate percussion to a dreamy chorus full of lush background vocals. It’s a direction not many of the other songs on the album take which truly shows the versatility in Ziman as an artist.
Ziman shows off her classically trained piano skills in the track “Mea Culpa.” Breakneck piano riffing begins the song, followed by her vocals in an almost musical theater style and pace. It’s also her vivid storytelling in the verses that make the song intimate. The most emotionally satisfying part is her change in the chorus to dramatic piano chords and her sweet, lifting melody where she sings, “there’s plenty more bad mistakes for us to make before we come undone.” “Better Days” and “Tread Carefully” are two songs elsewhere on the album that are examples of great songwriting and interesting arrangement.
Keepsake is one of those albums that’s cohesive sonically as well as conceptually and demands your repeated listens not only because of it’s catchy songs but because of the honest, good intentions behind the lyrics. Ziman’s expert song crafting abilities shine brightly, making this album a truly impressive work.