"Pass Like Pollen" is available on record and digital here:
The music of Cartalk can be told in two stories. On one side, you have these beautifully crafted songs filled with melodies and grace. On the other side you have this distortion and what just feels like destruction. While it could be thought of as two sounds which have been blended together before, they have never formed a sound such as this, that I have heard before anyway. "Pass Like Pollen" takes you on an emotional journey both within the lyrics and the music of the album itself.
When I first press play on the song "Arroyo Tunnels" to start this album there is a sound like folk music. It's dreamy, but there is also that underlying feel of this being kind of like a country album but not really a country album. I'm thinking of artists like The Honorary Title and John Denver right away, which really says a lot not just because of the space between those sounds but also the timeframe when you can think of both of them as playing on stages as well.
By the end of this first song though the music has grown into some kind of bliss. It's a longer outro of sorts but it just works as it sets the tone for the rest of the songs. "Noonday Devil" comes in more rocking like Tom Petty and makes you really want to pay attention to the lyrics. "Las Manos" kicks into the chorus with much distortion and this is also where I begin to compare this in my mind with Weezer's blue album. One of my favorite lines on this album also comes in this song and says: "Did my honesty scare you? Honestly I scare me too"
The fourth song is called "Wrestling" and I didn't know if it was going to be about wrestling with your thoughts or actually name drop Jake Roberts, but there is a line which says "No heel turn happening" and that makes me think this does have elements in it which relate to pro wrestling and whenever the art forms of music and pro wrestling can clash I am happy. There are serious "Can't Hardly Wait" vibes on "Wrestling" while we then go on a nice drive with "Car Window". It really is such a perfect balance between melody and destruction, falling apart made fun.
"A Lesson" slows things down, not just for the song itself but for the rest of the album. While it is a ballad with the strings coming out and all, this is the first time I really think of Slothrust during this album as well (and I'm always thinking about Slothrust) "Driveway", much like "Car Window", is a good example of the blending of styles on this album and then "Something or Nothing" takes us back into a somewhat ballad of a song. By the end you'll hear lyrics about Springsteen as it goes out with a bang, as leaving them wanting more.
After listening to "Pass Like Pollen" I can say that I really enjoy it as I feel the album does what all great albums should do: embraces the past while paving way for the future. I'm not sure what I would call this if you wanted to put it into a genre. Obviously rock is at the top of the list, but then you get into some subgenre qualifiers and it gets tricky when you walk that line between Mazzy Star and L7. I'm also not sure how well this would fit in during the 1990's when grunge was most popular, but I do know that it is a perfect sound for right now.