"Moon Sickness," the sixth album from experimental indie-rockers the Caribbean, is out today, and the group is celebrating with two shows: A free, low-key performance at Adams Morgan's Red Onion Records at 6 p.m., and then a full-bore show at the Black Cat with Greenland at 8 p.m. (That one has a $12 cover charge.) The album is currently streaming on Spotify: Take a listen to the playlist, and read critic Mark Jenkins' full review of "Moon Sickness" below.
Kindred spirits: Scritti Politti, Talking Heads, Caetano Veloso
From the opening electric bleat to the long-decaying final note, “Moon Sickness” sounds like a Caribbean album. Yet this quietly extraordinary District trio has made some discreet renovations. These nine songs are more direct, with lyrics that are more likely to rhyme. The group still avoids choruses, but singer-guitarist Michael Kentoff’s cool observations are occasionally warmed by bandmates Matthew Byars’s and Dave Jones’s backing vocals.
None of these changes are obvious or overwhelming. Kentoff’s writing is still literary, at times verging on stream-of-consciousness, and his delivery conversational. His voice slips through the spaces in arrangements that array electric and acoustic guitars against an implacable yet supple rhythm section, jazzy keyboards, pittering electrobeats and samples that range from faint to braying. Such almost straightforward near-rockers as “Electric Bass” and “Echopraxia” are outnumbered by slippery, discursive numbers such as “We’re Both Villains.”
That song muses on adultery in a detached manner that may or may not be theoretical. “Even your e-mails are like sugary sin,” lilts Kentoff, whose bemused outlook is more John Cheever than Chuck Berry, let alone Johnny Rotten. If “Moon Sickness” is a little more sugary than expected, its PH factor is still agreeably tart.
-- Mark Jenkins