Female-fronted rock bands are a commodity. Well, let me rephrase: unique female-fronted rock bands are a commodity. For what reason? Usually, most try to be the next Paramore and don’t stray far from power chord progressions and uninspired lyrics, leading to typically fun but empty music. It’s not often that a real, outstanding gem surfaces. But lo and behold, a little band named Carson have this little release called Leap that kinda sorta should become a big deal.
Leap opens with the vulnerable “Battle,” a fitting title for its frantic delivery and frank lyrics. Melodic direction on the track is clear, focused, and incredibly strong. Vocalist Taisha Bethea gives plenty of indication that she’s going at it full force. Emotionally on key, every word, every lyric feels like it’s placed exactly where it should be and the words sung the only way they should be. Behind her dynamic prowess are sliding guitar leads, gritty rhythms and fluctuating drum fills that feel cohesive and commanding, reminiscent of Circa Survive guitar work laid over The Dangerous Summer’s rhythmic and percussive work (which should come as no surprise with AJ Perdomo and Cody Payne manning the production). “No Sleep November,” on the other hand, is subdued in its verses, instrumentally a dead ringer of the later eras of As Cities Burn or Oceana. Warm tones work hand in hand with Bethea’s intimate vocal delivery, both of which culminate into a truly amazing chorus and reprieve, a definite standout on Leap. Already, we’re given two forms of Carson, both of which are stellar to say the least. The rest of Leap follows variants of those forms astoundingly.
The more aggressive side of Carson is punchy, full, and meaningful. Like “Battle,” third track “Resilience” scatters between crunchy riffs to bright, sweeping cleans that resonate in the mix. There’s instrumental attitude and presence that lives up to the likes of letlive and Every Time I Die, especially in the intro and outro. Bethea particularly flexes her vocals to undulate with the varied presentation of the song, coalescing beautifully. This straightforward presentation works wonders in tracks such as “Heart Meet Habit,” “Moving Forward” and “Apparition,” all of which explore uncommon rhythms and some of the best technicality. The drumming establishes a jumpy spine in “Heart Meet Habit” and “Keep Calm,” evolving at the end of each chorus and swinging back into restraint at the verse for the former while rolling on a dominating snare that brings every melody together at the conclusion of Leap.
“Moving Forward” mixes a dance feeling to standard pop-punk – almost achieving a Fall Out Boy aura – but it’s a bit more repetitious than such veterans, inducing the album’s least memorable track. But that’s not to say it’s a bad song, and to imply such would be mistaken. “Apparition” utilizes minor melodies like those heard in “No Sleep November” to engender a blues-type atmosphere, but much faster than listeners would expect. It’s very uncommon, but it works wonders.
However, it is the restrained side of Carson that provides deeper impact. “Time To Get Up” picks up rhythmically where “No Sleep November” leaves off and plays out as one of the most optimistic tracks on Leap, simply because of its narrative’s connotation: We create problems for ourselves but we, as the title implies, stand on our feet and keep going. It’s highly relatable, personal and intimate, making it a charming track. “Elevator,” though, takes the crown. Bethea provides the album’s best vocal work, bar none. You hear each quiver, every tremble ringing in her sultry voice that perfectly builds strength to reach her highest highs and passionate lows. With small orchestral arrangements, pulsating drum work and distorted and distanced guitars, every instrument is in its ideal place.
This is a band whose members are in tune with one another. Guitarists Peter Stipicevic and Shaun Couture feed off each other, switching off dissonant textures for minor melodies that create emotion in and of themselves. Robert Lee and Ben Laun provide full bonework and foundation for the rest of the members, be it in the form of rich bass tones to clashing cymbals and pounding kicks that contribute to dynamic build-ups. And of course, it is Taisha Bethea who ties it all together with one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. There is control, balance, flexibility and emotion in Leap that makes it an album that’s worth taking note of. My only real complaint is the lack of cohesiveness as far as overall direction. In the time elapsed while indulging Leap, you find that no song sounds like the one before it and it makes way for a bit of a miss if you try and predict what the tone of the next song will be like. But that’s as far as that goes. Each track is single-worthy in its own merit, each as lively and unique as the band that performs them. With such a powerful release, I’d expect to see Carson becoming a household name very soon and leap to new heights themselves.