Release Date 05/12/2017
(Gentle Reminder Records)
On its fifth album, Baltimore’s Romantic States light a small yet inextinguishable fire. Corduroy In Italy captures the minimalist rock group’s undefeatable spirit while bubbling like a pot on the brink of boiling over. It is nothing new for a small duo like Romantic States to sound huge, as they often do. But it is rare to hear a twosome like this. Drummer Illenia Madelaire and guitarist Jim Triplett (they both sing) have a considerate collaboration that does not hide the beauty of simplicity. There is a seamless responsiveness in their playing. This is music made with soulful intent, inspired by those who prefer one note over two.
Though the duo generally sticks to just guitar, drums, and vocals, the music feels more expansive than ever on Corduroy In Italy. The cozy, warm songs of early releases like Still Petals and A Shell Is Born have evolved into room-filling pop anthems like the new record's "Barren Idol." No intimacy is lost despite the new enormity of sound. This duality is perfectly exhibited on the stark but moving "Part Lemon” and on closer “Stay Close.” Madelaire’s poetry is impactful. “Head in chains/ I tried I broke/ waves down/ ships drowned,” she sings on “Half Your Life.” Both lyricists paint vivid pictures of the stories and emotions shared. On “Stay Close,” Triplett reflects on loneliness in partnership: “When will I be alone/ any day you could be gone/ wondering what you're thinking/ torturing, my head's restrained.”
Thematically, Corduroy In Italy is about hope, regret, the importance and struggle of self-love, acceptance, confusion, holding on, letting go, loneliness, fear, the beauty of animals, human cruelty, and self-reflection. With their clear-headed use of space, melody, noise, and subtle humor, Romantic States is nourishing in a hungry world. Corduroy In Italy contains the darkest light, the heaviest levity, and the most cutting softness to enter your ears in any year.