The Tea Party

Seven Circles

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Seven albums into a decade-plus career, the Tea Party seem, if not resigned with their criminally low popularity profile outside of their native Canada (what truly ambitious artist could ever feel resigned?), at least appreciative of the fact that perhaps it's best to be bona fide stars at home and cult favorites worldwide on one's own terms, than global icons on someone else's. After all, the latter scenario has grown increasingly familiar during the new millennium's first decade, as music sales and consumer interest continually erode, forcing record labels to package their signings into ever smaller and blander product "boxes" better fit for mass consumption. And of course, anyone who's followed the Tea Party's musical trajectory since the early '90s knows all too well that the ever-restless and eclectic trio has been in constant reinvention mode almost from day one, making it impossible to package them into any restricting container. Indeed, they are evolving still, but, interestingly, while many of the group's prior creative detours were prone to dominate entire albums at a time, 2004's Seven Circles is distinctive for how it collects the experiments of yesteryear and then streamlines, blends, and subsumes them into some of the most fluid and immediate songwriting of the Tea Party's discography. One need not even look too closely to see that the individual stylistic hallmarks are all here somewhere -- including the beguiling Arabian flavors of "Luxuria" and the title cut, the breathtakingly orchestrated grandeur of "Oceans" and "The Watcher," the thunderous hard rock of "Empty Glass," and the Audioslave-ish "Overload," and even the industrial/electronic accents used on ("Stargazer" and "One Step Closer Away" -- only this time, it's possible to truly forget oneself within each song's diverse yet fluid undulations, rather than get caught up with playing a game of "spot the influence". Ultimately, this impressively seamless and controlled amalgamation may imbue Seven Circles with broader appeal than perhaps any other Tea Party album -- too bad that may still not be enough to spread their gospel beyond Canadian borders.

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