Between 1995 and 2006, Caithlin de Marrais, was behind the bass and most of the vocals or Rainer Maria, an indie rock emo band which one was one of the prominent formations of the indie midwest emo scene along Mineral, Appleseed Cast, American Football, and a few others.
During the second part of the nineties, I was following attentively Rainer Maria but lost most of my interest when they moved towards a more indie rock sound, letting there emotional tension behind them. In the end, I fully stopped listening to Rainer Maria, not even keeping one or another song in my digital library.
A few days ago, I came across a video for "Birds", one of the tracks of her second album and realized she was still making music. The song made a strong impression on me, so I'm back on her tracks, and the surprise of discovering her album is quite positive.
In a certain way she realizes what I hoped for the post-2000 version of Rainer Maria, making things quieter and more subtle, instead of more noisy and demonstrative.
"Red Coats" has been composed during a full year, recording demos at home, when she was not busy with her son, before going to the studio. Having to learn to record alone and digitally for the first time, she had plenty time to twist and test her melodies, experiment with structures and textures. Such process gives a certain originality and freshness to the album but may at time kill a certain spontaneity.
There are then songs for a little more than 30 minutes. "Red Coats" is not a surprising album and I find some echoes in artists such as Kristin Hersch, Kim Deal or Tanya Donelly, as she is occupying a similar niche. But she clearly belongs to the next decade, and the closest comparison I could do would be with Tracy Shedd, as both artists have this capacity to inject a little extra bit of soul to some of their songs, which make them stands above the rest.
My quest, listening to this album, was to find those "special songs" and enjoy their sunny melancholy, their mix of happiness and lassitude, of hope and innocence.
"Birds" is one of the best tracks and completely stands apart, both lively and restrained, full of sun and nostalgia. It is a really wonderful song, the kind of achievement she was pursuing with Rainer Maria but only possible now that she is alone. It is self-reflexive, both intimate and emotional but through a delicious and addictive melody.
The second complete success of this album is the title track, "Red Coats", light and sunny, seductive and elusive, with a melody strangely somewhere between The Notwist and The Magnetic Fields, proving that Caithlin de Marrais isn't renouncing to here indie roots.
The other songs are less striking but still pleasant and I enjoy listening to this album while being busy working or doing chores, but when "Birds" and "Red Coats" are playing I focus on the emotions they awaken in me. I'll keep these two songs.
Caithlin De Marrais - "Birds" - from the album 'Red Coats' from Harmonica Boy on Vimeo.