Chicago via Brooklyn’s Kent Lambert has been recording under the name Roommate for about a decade, but now has a set of collaborators playing along with his moody electronic compositions, giving some serious depth to his already strong songwriting. Despite the companionate band name, and the significance of the group on this record, the importance of isolation, unusual fragility, and unanswerable questions are the more vital, weighty issues at hand. Bassist Gillian Lisee (formerly of the Fruit Bats), drummer Seth Vanek, and multi-instrumentalist Luther Rochester give some serious punch to the music on Guilty Rainbow, but Lambert’s challenging, questioning, worried lyrics are the key to this record’s success.
On opening track “My Bad”, squelching and scrambling electronic bursts occasionally bubble to the top of the mix, adding color to the clapping electronic percussion and caterwauling vocals. “Everyone’s famous here, everyone praises everyone,” Lambert grinningly sings as the soundscape grows bleaker. The chilly, Animal Collective-like stuttered chords, and jazzy vibraphone flourishes of “August Song” come across more wintery than the title would suggest, and rather than finding a destructive acme, the song builds to a messy, overlapping point before collapsing in on itself.
This trend continues throughout the disc, Lambert and company building richly detailed, atmospheric songs, and then letting them die. The verses of “Flicker Flame” go on until there simply aren’t anymore. “When you’re somebody nobody wants to be around, where do you go at night?” Lambert coos on “Snow Globe”, waiting, hoping for someone to respond, but no one does. The groovy, chaotic “Ghost Pigeon” is the first song in which Lambert’s voice cracks above its melancholic coo, but still everything returns to a glittering, off-key, off-kilter mess.
While many other songwriters would take this into a down-trodden, depressed place, Lambert remains slyly guarded. The flowing, multivalent music helps to keep things out of the monotonous emotional doldrums, but Lambert’s slow, building, prying questions truly force the listener to examine every bit of the album and the self.