In this strange musical world that we inhabit, we are quick to forget that you don’t need much to make exciting, soulful tunes. Is the adage “less is more” cheesy? Maybe. But that shouldn’t matter when its true. Stylistically, compositionally, and lyrically: if the parts are authentic or moving, you want to give them as much space as possible to breathe and expand.
Exhibit A: Springtime Carnivore. All she needs to create a timeless retro-pop sound are drums, bass, and an organ; a catchy melody and a broken heart; an authentic musical soul that was given lively energy in her short but entertaining set at Baby’s All Right last Saturday night.
Springtime Carnivore, the singer-songwriter also known as Greta Morgan, is backed by drummer Nate Lotz and Todd Wisenbaker on guitar. In addition to this instrumental trio, where her chordy surf guitar sometimes supplanted her wurly organ, the Springtime gal has the benefit of a truly tremendous voice. A voice that has poise and maturity, one that exudes a broken and precocious femme-wisdom, like a young Neko Case. A voice that can ascend to a hearty falsetto like the country queens of yesteryear, like, say, Tammy Wynette or Patsy Cline, while still resounding emotively and filling out a room.
Equipped with this powerful tool, Springtime Carnivore sang songs that fit loosely into three thematic categories: heartbreak, conquering heartbreak, or ruminating upon heartbreak. In a wonderfully poetic turn, Morgan often funnels her melancholic reflections on melancholic love into catchy hooks and up-tempo rhythms, and her backing instrumentals are frequently just as upbeat. Her piano lines were sparsely theatrical and ragtimey, in an early Beatles kind of way, met with light funk drums and bass. This contrasting combo of sad lyrics, happy music–which sounds not unlike, say, Dr. Dog–makes for a poignant mix of danceable grooves and pensive lyrics.
The skeleton of this music is not complex or shocking. As someone who gravitates almost exclusively to overtly profound and conceptual music, its rare that I am drawn to such music. But when I am, I find it uniquely beautiful and endlessly listenable. Furthermore, such simplicity is certainly not mutually exclusive with depth or soul. The music of Springtime Carnivore mixed just the right blend of carefree tuneage with subtle sadness to evoke in me several times Saturday evening perhaps the most profound emotion of all: the feeling of loving life.
Perhaps this music resonated with me so deeply because of its seasonal context. Here we stand at the cusp of a warmer season, open to the coming of new life and beautiful scenery, and yet the frigidity of winter lingers, as does our cold melancholy.
Springtime Carnivore, indeed.