Fans of The Cat Empire shake your maracas, blow your trumpets and rejoice because 2019 heralds the release of a new studio album for you to immerse yourselves in. But this shouldn’t come as surprising news given The Cat Empire have been drip feeding us tracks from Stolen Diamonds, their seventh studio album, for the last six months. Since 1 July 2018 a new song has been released and available for download or stream every month. Each song has been accompanied by a hand-selected photograph by an Australian photographer highlighting The Cat Empire‘s holistic approach to this album.
Stolen Diamonds, touted as the final part of the musical trilogy with Steal the Light (2013) and Rising with the Sun (2016), is produced by long-time friend and collaborator Jan Skubiszewski and recorded in Victoria. The album has a distinct international sound to it which caters for their global fan base and the international festival stage. It also captures the sound layering and simplistic melodies The Cat Empire is known for. So, same same, but different is what you’ll get. The album embodies all of the fundamentals that the band have amalgamated and refined over the years. This is what makes Stolen Diamonds so unique and also serves as its downfall.
The thirteen song album opens with Kila, first unleashed upon the world in October 2018. It is a wonderful, up-tempo introduction to the album representative of that classic The Cat Empire sound while teasing with twisted lyrics: “We’re going to kill a man…Jaro Jaro” (Kilimanjaro). The album’s title track, Stolen Diamonds, follows bringing with it a heavy jazz vibe that is complemented by Harry Angus’ vocals that will have you up and dancing. But so will all the other songs because this is The Cat Empire after all and that’s what they do.
Song three, Oscar Wilde, brings the temp down a notch allowing listeners to enjoy Felix Riebel’s melodic storytelling, before rising back up to what I believe is the stand out of the album. Ready Now, fuses feelings of lyrical ominousness with a sensation of musical light or hope to create an intricately layered yet seemingly balanced piece of art. Backed up by the epic Barricades with its similarly darker sound, the two songs blend perfectly together creating nine minutes of emotive aural delight. Both Ready Now and Barricades are unlike anything else on Stolen Diamonds and feel more suited to Rising with the Sun (2016), but I am glad they were included because they are a definite highlight.
Song six, Anybody, reverts back to The Cat Empire’s boppy upbeat sound despite not actually being as saccharine as it appears on the surface. While sounding quite disjointed from the intensity of the previous two songs, Anybody leads into a section of the album that serves to lift listeners sprits. La Sirène, the first foreign language song with guest vocalist Eloise Mignon is a nod to the band’s French fans. Its quirkiness is endearing and moreish.
Echoes unintentionally offers a soft and fluffy 1990’s boy band sound that is out of place on the album. It is the weak link in an otherwise solid effort. Who’s That is similarly tender in its approach but channels The Cat Empire sound and brings the course of Stolen Diamonds back on track after a small bump in the road. The longest song on the album, Adelphia experiments with a distinctive Latin flavour while embracing a jazz-pop sound. It is a pure delight to experience as are the remaining songs. Saturday Night with its grooviness is a throwback to the band’s older sound; Bow Down to Love is simply Happiness with a capital H; and Sola, the final song, rounds out the album on a suitably mellow note with a twist of Spanish flavour. Co-written by and featuring Spanish singer and Calexico member Depedro on vocals, Sola captures the essence of The Cat Empire: global bonding over music.
Stolen Diamonds is representative of everything The Cat Empire have become. It embraces their past, present and future. As a result, the album’s flow is somewhat fragmented, but it is a solid, holistic representation of the band’s musical prowess. Long-standing fans are sure to be delighted.
Album Review by Anita Kertes