ALBUM IN A SENTENCE: CJ Camerieri places the trumpet centre stage on an album with roots in Asthmatic Kitty style chamber pop that stretches into electro, free jazz and spaghetti westerns.
One of the most important distinctions in music is the acreage of difference between favourite and best. If forced to choose between the two, I choose favourite. For example, Queen’s best work is, by common opinion, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Most people, including myself, would recognise it as a work of genius, a splendid decaying seaside pavillion. However, given the choice between playing that song or playing ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’ or ‘Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy’, I would always choose the latter because they are my favourites. When it comes to Queen, they are my dorky best friends.
Best albums tap into the idea of rock canon. Which slink back to the same questions that our culture keeps asking about who, in a world full of authors, has authority? Is critical consensus required to establish that Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is as good as anything anyone else has recorded in the last 80 years? Is the level of popularity needed to sell vinyl reissues in supermarkets proof of those albums enduring worth? To rephrase an Alan Partridge joke, can you trust anyone who says their favourite Beatles is the greatest hits?
Favourites don’t get tied up in those knots. They just bump into you and smile and you love them and don’t care what anyone else really thinks. My first childhood favourites, the likes of the William Tell overture, Shakin Stevens and Musical Youth, caused me to bounce across the living room. At age 7, I learnt all the words to ‘Ant Rap’ and performed them to my class at school. Although a critic or a friend might introduce a favourite, they form deep, personal relationships. As Helen Love have it, they are the records that make your heart go boom.
Favourites leave you vulnerable in public. They are some lost song that you have to do your awkward teenage dance to. Back when HMV listening posts were a thing, I first heard Proof of Youth by The Go Team! and in the middle of a busy store, all I could feel was my heart doing somersaults. Even in the streaming age, I was sat in a laundrette last July, trying the new Taylor Swift album to pass the time and have an opinion until the ‘I’ve never been a natural / all I do is try, try, try,’ line utterly sold me. Best music tells your head what music can and should be. Favourite music tells your heart, ‘this is what I like. I would like this again please.’
Carm is the debut solo album project from trumpeter CJ Camerieri. I heard the first track from this album, ‘Song of Trouble’, on the 6Music breakfast show. Mostly by chance, as normally at that time in the morning I would be riding on my forklift. However, I was checking emails, it was played and everything stopped at my desk. I haven’t heard it again on the radio and it hasn’t been covered by my usual reading sources. 5 minutes either way and I’d have missed it entirely. With the warm overture at the start of the track, a piano loop that immediately hooks, and Sufjan Stevens quoting Psalm 23, it’s a perfect phenomenal track.
Taking Carm as a whole, CJ Camerieri uses his trumpet and a great supporting cast to generate an ample supply of sugar rushes and surprises. ‘Soft Night’ has a bass line that runs towards you like a red setter and a hallelujah descant that echoes through the heavens. ‘Nowhere’ comes on like a Morricone soundtrack while ‘After Hours’ digitally manipulates the french horn down two octaves to create a deep, sweaty club atmosphere. It is so good to hear Shara Nova of My Brightest Diamond, another favourite band, guest perform on ‘Tapp’. Her voice has lost nothing of its intensity or austere beauty. Here is an album that can stretch far into itchy-scratchy free jazz on ‘Scarcely Out’ but also keep its perspective and bearings, returning to the piano loop of ‘Song of Trouble’ on exceptional album closer ‘Land’. Carm is that most joyous, heart-filling of things; the first favourite album of 2021.