Vetiver, Tight Knit (Sub Pop)
Since when did Sub Pop turn into a “new folk” label? Well that’s not all the Seattle-based outfit is, obviously, but a large contingent of its roster fits into the denomination. Named after a species of wild grass, it’s only natural that Vetiver embody some portion of easy-going, hippie influence. Hailing from San Francisco, their “Vetiverse” (their online dot com as well as perhaps the galaxy depicted on the album cover—and you thought we resided in the Milky Way!) isn’t a doped-up shamble but a mostly upbeat, if still contemplative, songbook.
Their California shades aren’t rose colored, either: Andy Cabic exclaims, “the way I see things don’t do a thing for me,” on “Through the Front Door.” He doesn’t let anything get him down for long, though, and emerges into the happy-go-lucky shuffle of “More of This.” The only mildly psychedelic additive is the almost reggae tempo of “Another Reason to Go.” This is music for lying out on a summer lawn looking up at the sky. The band’s well-crafted compositions are reminiscent of the Shins on that band’s early releases. This will be an ensemble to watch grow like their namesake.
Robert Pollard, The Crawling Distance (rockathon)
The latest phase of former Guided By Voices front man Robert Pollard’s solo career marks his conscious effort to create more “mature” music as a kind of elder statesman of indie rock. It doesn’t mean this set is boring, however. Pollard can’t resist the macho posturing of a stomp like “Cave Zone,” but his self-effacing buffoonery never fails to evoke a grin. “The Butler Stands for Us All” is the latest episode of Pollard’s ongoing attempt to impersonate a Brit, in this case an “up-with-people” mop-top McCartney that hadn’t run out of melodic ideas, and on the stately “Imaginary Queen Anne,” he delineates the tone of the album as one of pastoral poetic longing: “I sunk to the hillside, felt almost like suicide, I prayed to be stabilized, enough to see sunlight in your eyes.” “On Shortwave,” initially released as a raw-sounding demo on GBV boxset Suitcase: Demons & Painkillers, is rendered into epic heights with full orchestration. By the time he reaches the haunting final line, “the only real memory I‘ll ever have,” you feel like the echoes of his experience are engraved upon the rivulets of your own gray matter.
Brian Staker firstname.lastname@example.org