The Pantones
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The Pantones

Band Americana Rock


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"Review of Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings"

There's a moment of dread when you put on a record like this and read the associated information; self-made, self-produced, self-released. There's usually a reason why a band can't get a record company to put out their record - it's poor, sub-standard and sounds like it's been recorded in someone's toilet. However, there's always a case that's the exception to the rule and The Pantones debut record is one of them. With all the hype around the Arctic Monkeys and the way they used the internet to spread their music, it sometimes doesn't register that other bands have been doing this and releasing records by themselves for a lot longer. In this case, why no-one hasn't caught onto these guys is a complete mystery. Perhaps not making music that is inherently fashionable may have something to do with it and the inability of PR companies to find something to spin this into so that music magazines can put on their front cover. However, they've decided to become the self-confessed leaders of Americana-indie-pop and I can't think of a better way of describing this myself. Ploughing the fertile fields of alt-country and Americana with their music echoing their obvious influences of The Jayhawks, Wilco and The Pernice Brothers but there is also, in my mind, influence from our shores in the name of The Smiths and certainly the lyrical quirks and story-telling ability of Morrissey. What struck me most about this record upon listening to it was the novel-esque quality of the songs, each of them creating clear images in my mind with a real emotion edge. Matthew Carlson, lead singer and writer, has said that he didn't set out to record songs like this, it just flowed from him and it must have come from some deep, subconscious space for this kind of connection. Dealing with lost love, depression and loneliness they may not be the most cheery of lyrics, but it somehow gives you hope.There's small notes of triumph in each of these songs - that the protagonist here (whether it's Carlson or not) has got over this, has managed to find a silver lining to his cloud is reassuring. Carlson's voice may not be as strong as Morrissey's, but the delivery is smooth and comfortable and certainly reminds me of Joe Pernice's which floats along the melody effortlessly. The music is certainly unrelated to these shores, bathed firmly in the waves of pedal steel and gentle acoustic guitar. But it's what's being said here that raises this record above the usual alt-country crowd and sets it apart from their influences. Admittedly, this may not be to everyone's taste and its only the slightly dulled production and the sometimes "alt-country by numbers" musicianship that stops this from hitting a true high, but it's still a great hidden gem of a record that deserves to be heard by more people. Seek it out and give it a listen. - CD Times United Kingdom

"Review of Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings"

The Pantones play warm and mellow pop, adding depth with touches of steel guitar and analog keyboards behind AM radio harmonies and lyrics of love and redemption. Think Sloan swapping exuberant Beatles for late-period Byrds, music that seems joyous in summer and longing in the winter. It's easy to fake that moment where the melancholy breaks and a ray of recovery comes through the clouds, but the Pantones seem to just naturally be in that mood. They're opening for the Great Lakes Myth Society at the Elbow Room on Saturday, January 21, but they would be equally good with Dabenport (who is similar, but has lately veered more toward rocking and less toward crying) or the Hard Lessons, whose country-inflected ballads would stand up next to the Pantones well on a mix tape. I'm not sure if they have it in them to drive you to drinking, but they would be fine to hear as you drifted off to a drunken sleep or when your hangover needs a salve. - The Current - Ann Arbor, MI

"Review Of Sleeplesss Nights, Silent Mornings"

The Pantones are still singer-songwriter Matt Carlson's band, but in "Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings," his just-released third album, the "Matthew Carlson and the" prefix has been dropped for the first time. It's a statement - the Pantones have a set lineup now. In addition to Carlson and his longtime multi-instrumentalist sidekick David Baldwin, the Pantones feature Baldwin's violinist wife, Mary, former American Cosmos guitarist Paul Delamater, who seems to have found a more comfortable zone with the pedal steel, and the Gentleman Callers' rhythm section: drummer Joel Kuiper and bassist Jacob McCarthy. Carlson's wistful, reflective songs are still the main event here, but the Pantones of "Sleepless" are a full-blown song band only hinted at in last year's "Memory Is All," with plenty of listener-friendly hooks and some genuine rock-n-roll energy. A cutting instrumental break in "Sly Betrayal" sets the tone on the opening track, and "Ghost of Jonah," the false ending in "Apprehension," the extended finale of "Blue to Overcome" and the thick grunge chords of "This End of the Phone" all rock hard. The Hollies/Turtles Brit-pop groove of "Lost and Found" - complete with horns - is a highlight. "Whippoorwill" is the CD's "hit single," in that it features a bite-sized, singable melody and an irresistible guitar hook from Baldwin. "Cabin by the Lake" is classic Carlson: lonesome, quietly emotional and weighted down with regret. Matt Carlson's singing voice is somewhat small and plaintive, but he seems comfortable in it, and he never tries to take it places it doesn't want to go. His signature confessional writing style is of a different stripe from conventional pop songcraft - it's hard to imagine anyone else covering these songs, for example. But most of all, it's the reinvented, polished-without- being-slick Pantones band sound that makes "Sleepless" the breakout CD for Carlson, and - for all the right reasons - is likely to deliver his songs to a much broader audience. - Lansing State Journal

"Review of Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings"

Matthew Carlson is the singer/songwriter behind The Pantones. He used to be in front of them - when the group was actually called Matthew Carlson & The Pantones - but that`s changed and the man and band have been unified. Their enticing new record, Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings, is a collection of songs which Carlson brought to light while living in a house that, for decades prior, was occupied by his widowed grandfather. Elements of his new surroundings manifest themselves into these songs with amiable, yet deep, themes of mundane solitude, faith, reflection and ultimate loss. The lo-fi indie alt. country music that underscores these musings sways from soft to breezy, and from sorrowful to energetic. And always in step with the mood. Arrangements are colored here and there with trumpets, Mellotron, violin and a variety of keys. Plenty of pedal-steel also give many of these tunes a haunting element. A pleasing experience throughout, Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings really breaks out and comes to head with the catchy roots-rocker "This End Of The Phone", just before closing with the folksy acoustic strummer "Footsteps Left On Snow". In the most subtle of ways, this tune brightens to a curiously uplifting mood as it apexes with a delightful "Dom Di Dum" that feels like the awakening the whole experience was building up to. - Miles of Music

"Review of Memory Is All"

Mathew Carlson and the Pantones - Memory is All (Phonophore)

What's not to like? We have great melodies, smart lyrics, quirky melodies, and more than a passing resemblance to the Moutain Goats' John Darnielle's songwriting and vocal style? This Grand Ledge, Michigan band embraces their Midwestern roots while looking outward to a much bigger world. Tracks like "Olympia" and "Paris, Ireland & Stockholm" are musical road stories told as much through melody as words.

Musically, the band shares space with all your favorite bands: Wilco, Beck (Mutations and Sea Change), the Radar Brothers, and even Johnny Marr.

Do yourself a favor and check out this band you've likely never heard of. - Glorious Noise

"Review of Memory Is all"

Matthew Carlson and the Pantones possess many of the elements of a good band. The music is nearly flawless, pretty without being boring. The press kit lists influences of the Byrds and Mojave 3, and both sound right, but Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is also in the works, as the band brings quirky keyboard swirls and 'atmosphere' into the mix. Carlson's voice is lulling, with a slight edge that keeps you listening. The production is excellent, instruments and voices fading in and out in such a natural manner that it feels like breathing. - Pop Matters

"Feature Article From Noise Magazine"

Sometimes a good song is like a child. It needs support. At times, it needs special treatment.

And there's a million different ways it can turn out.

Matthew Carlson, singer-guitarist for The Pantones knows that. So on the band's 13-track debut album, Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings, he made sure all the songs were tight. Just like a father watching over his children.

The Lansing quintet is known locally for providing its audiences with an Americana indie pop sound somewhat akin to Wilco or the Jayhawks. The sound is dynamic: sweet harmonies and tunes that range from mellow and folky to up-tempo and rocking. Carlson has released two other albums, but he's secure with the Pantones line-up that features multi-instrumentalist David Baldwin and members of other local bands like the Gentleman Callers.

"Somehow, during reviews of us, the Smiths always come up and we can't quite place it," Baldwin, 28, said. "We grew up listening to the Smiths, but never thought we sounded like that. We have an eclectic mix of influences and hopefully that shows."

In Carlson's mind, the heart and soul of The Pantones reside in the slow burn of steady pop and songs written from the heart.

"When you go to make a record, there are an infinite number of options. I could write a song and it could be me all acoustic or we could hire a brass section," Carlson, 31, said.

"It's hard to take the right route. There's so many choices and making a good record is hard."

However, as the album's only scribe, Carlson feels he didn't have many choices when writing it. He penned all of the songs after he bought and moved into his great grandparents' old house. And he said most of the songs are not about young or old people, but rather, folks not ready to die.

"It was all based on a theme of a marriage ending because of an untimely death. Although the songs are not based on the actual life of my great grandparents, I can't come up with a logical reason why I would choose to write about those themes," he said.

"I never set out to make a concept record, but I think there's something larger than me sitting and writing those songs."

On Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings, Carlson and the band reach for a lofty goal of making a good record -- one he feels he achieved.

The Pantones bounce from a slow pedal steel-driven attack on campfire narratives like "Cabin by the Lake" and "Footsteps Left on Snow" to more racing efforts like "The End of the Phone" to trumpet-riddled ditties like "Lost and Found," on which Baldwin fills the background with the steady sounds of his horn.

"When we play live, there are a couple of tunes where I try to cover all the bases of what we recorded," Baldwin said on the phone from his home.

"It usually turns out to be a hit and wakes up the people in the back of the bar when they hear trumpet. They start looking around."

Whether it's the lyrics or the various instruments the Pantones use, Carlson likes to think that when folks listen to their songs, they're getting some kind of story. - Lansing Noise


Inside The Sun's Wild Flame - Coming on Sept. 29, 2009
Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings - 2005
Memory Is All - 2004



Playing earnest and determined Americana-indie-pop, The Pantones wrap themselves in the experimentalist possibilities of folk’s threadbare simplicity, indie-rock acrylic exuberance and the catchy melodies of pop. Singer-songwriter Matthew Carlson, multi-instrumentalist David Baldwin, violinist Mary Baldwin, drummer Joel Kuiper, bassist Jake McCarthy and pedal steel guitarist Jeremy Rapp layer discomfittingly confidential lyrics atop rock and roll rhythms, charming trumpet and keyboard melodies and rousing three-part harmonies. Drawing inspiration from The Beatles, The Kinks, Wilco and Beulah, The Pantones put a bold twist on pop-rock that would make their forebears proud.

The Pantones released Sleepless Nights, Silent Mornings on their own Phonophore Records label in
2005. The album won praise in the press, where they were compared to late-era Byrds and Sloan alike, and earned them spots on stage at events like North By Northeast, Motor City Music Blowout and Chicago's world famous Hideout Lounge, among others. The Pantones have also had the privilege to play with John Stirratt of Wilco, The Court & Spark, Jeff Hanson, The Satin Peaches, Healthy White Baby, Great Lakes Myth Society and Canada.

That do-it-yourself ethic is apparent not only in their promotional efforts, but also in the striking musicality of their collaborative work. Filled with honesty, subtext, and daring, The Pantones are well worth paying attention to.

The newest Pantones long-player, entitled Inside The Sun's Wild Flame, will be released on Sept. 29th, 2009.