Company of Thieves CD Review

For the longest time, I’ve put off doing CD reviews. There were many reasons for it, some were just excuses that made me feel better, but when a CD comes in the mail that just stands out above the rest the excuses no longer seem valid. I’ve had a hard time setting time out to sit and listen to an entire album, but that changed as soon as I got hold of “Ordinary Riches” from the Chicago based band Company of Thieves. I’ve played the entire album front to back, sometimes inebriated but mostly sober, and each time I catch something new that fascinates me. It could be the serene vocal melodies during one song, or the intricate instrumentals on the next, but no matter what it is, I get captivated into each song, following the stories behind each creative piece.

Comprised of Genevieve Schatz on vocals, Marc Walloch on guitar, and Mike Ortiz on drums, COT is slowly but surely creating a buzz. Signed to Wind-up Records, this threesome is getting some much deserved recognition for their thought provoking songs. Their first release, “Ordinary Riches,” which I will be reviewing in the next few paragraphs, was released digitally on January 6, 2009 with the physical copy to be released at the end of February. They’ve been featured on iTunes for their song “Oscar Wilde” and their album debuted on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart at number five. Back in 2007, they won The New York Songwriters Circle contest for the aforementioned song, but the praise doesn’t end there. They even got a wonderful opportunity to play on one of those late nights TV shows. No, it wasn’t Conan, nor was it Leno or Letterman. But hey Carson Daly is just as good right? Jokes aside, this talented threesome is just starting their blossoming career, and at the moment they’re touring the States with Thriving Ivory. Gaining more fans with each performance, COT is sure to make an impact on the lives of many people to come.

The album starts off with a track called “Old Letters,” which not only showcases Genevieve’s talented voice, but also the musicality of the entire band. It’s a darker song, with lighter moments, but it essentially talks about a possible past relationship that went sour. It gave a glimpse of Genevieve’s powerful voice, and at the same time highlighted each band member. It wasn’t a track that was filled every second with some vocal arrangement, which is somewhat refreshing from the modern mainstream compositions.

The next track is the burlesque like “In Passing.” Marc Walloch produces some memorable and catchy guitar riffs to accompany this piano driven track. I especially enjoy the Spanish-like guitar interlude that led to the Santana-like solo. Energy radiates from this song, and would be a delight to catch live.

“Oscar Wilde” is probably one of my favourite tracks on this disc, and was actually the first song I sampled from COT’s myspace. For those of you who don’t know (and here comes my History Degree popping out), Oscar Wilde was a Victorian playwright, poet, and author. He was a prominent figure in the British aesthetic movement, as well as a strong advocate for socialism. Wilde argued that this new movement was valuable because it would lead to individualism. Now how does this history lesson apply to the song? Well it’s much more than that actually. The band takes the philosophy of Wilde and applies it to modern life. Most of Wilde’s works were directed toward upper-class society, in which he was embraced for, but at the same time he was shunned by society for his private life. COT’s believe the same thing is happening in this day and age, where record big-shots only want an artist around when it’s convenient. As a result “Oscar Wilde” was written to pay homage to their idol. The song is both thought provoking and catchy, something that will one day influence others to open their minds.

Company of Thieves“Quiet on the Front” begins with a nice harmonica intro, something you don’t normally hear on the radio. There’s also a nice little synthesizer solo as well as a bass slap somewhere in between. I really enjoyed the end, where the instruments start fading and all we can hear is the whisper in Genevieve’s voice singing “We all fade in time.”

“Pressure” began with the lyrics “I’m angry all the time, no one’s fault but mine.” That line in particular stood out for me, because ultimately, no matter what we think, it’s true. People make excuses all the time, me included, about why things aren’t working out or why things turned out a certain way. There’s no way around it, but there isn’t anyone really to blame but yourself. The song ends with Genevieve’s tender voice singing and reiterating that same message.

“Around the Block” is a catchy melodic track that just brings out the sunshine. It’s one of those songs that you can’t help but smile when you hear it, especially the background vocals when the chant of “Baah-dah Baah-dah” comes on.

“Even in the Dark” switches gears and provides a mellow atmosphere. The song calls out to everyone in society who feels the pressure of work, where everyone has to make money to provide for their family. At one point Genevieve yells “Find your calling even in the dark,” some wise word that would make everyone that much happier.

The next track titled “Under the Umbrella” begins with a heavy bass line accompanied by a steady drum beat and into the piano driven verse. This is very reminiscent of Regina Spektor and her quirky songs. It’s also got a slow-build up into the chorus that can be only defined as epic. This is one of those stadium rock tracks that Coldplay is so accustomed to. The outro is something to be amazed at, because it’s nothing like the rest of the song. It’s more up-beat rock with an inspiring guitar solo that led to some background chants of “Naah nah naah nah” and various clapping moments.

The outro was a perfect transition into the rock track “Past the Sleep.” It had everything you wanted in a rock song. It had the soft ballad part with Genevieve’s serene voice peaking through to the fast paced chorus with heavy hitting drums.

“The Fire Song” showcased everyone in the band. It began with some nice palm muting from Marc as well as the intricate drumming from Mike. Genevieve was able to showcase not only her powerful voice, but also her ability to capture the emotions within a song.

“The Tornado Song” is by far the most heartfelt song on the disc. It was based on Genevieve’s dream about her divorced parents trying to reconcile their relationship. That’s the beauty of music. Some topics are hard to reveal, and the power of music is able to evoke those emotions onto paper, putting it in plain sight for everyone to hear.

This wonderful disc ends with “New Letters.” It’s fitting to start off with “Old Letters,” a song about a difficult relationship, and end this musical journey with a song about a new beginning. Each line can be taken in two ways, for instance “I really do believe, this was much more than meant to be” can be seen as a loving relationship between two people, or it can also be interpreted as the beginning of COT’s musical career. No matter how you see it, this track is just the start of what’s to come from these lovely people known collectively as Company of Thieves.

This was one of the most enjoyable discs to have popped in my mailbox, something that I am truly gracious for. More information can be found on COT’s website and myspace.