Photo: Alissa Anderson
Remember Mellow Gold? It’s what Beck was both loving and lampooning back in his “Loser” years. But soft rock has a history that goes back to the advent of rock n roll. For most of that time, California has been its epicenter. From Jackson Browne/JD Souther in the 70s to Peter Case and Jennifer Warnes in the 80s, the baby of folk and rock has always had a home in the Golden State. And that is exactly where Tar Heel transplant, Andy Cabic relocated in the early 2000s after the breakup of his band The Raymond Brake. After soaking up some of San Francisco’s good vibes, he met up w fellow hip/hippy songwriter Devandra Banhart and the pair soon penned some songs for Barnhart’s first record. The subsequent press explosion got Cabic his own praise and got him signed to Sub Pop where he now leads the collective Vetiver.
Vetiver’s new release The Errant Charm is classic soft rock in the true sense of the word. What you get here is carefully strummed acoustics guitars, languid vocals, thoughtful lyrics and subtle and mature instrumentation. Vetiver’s songs remind me of kind rural strangers – each song is a familiar tip of the hat, a from-the-heart “how ya doing?” and though the album never does anything groundbreaking or sonically unique, producer Thom Monahan capture an analog warmth from a time long past. In fact, Vetiver’s tones are so of the “tried and true” variety, The Errant Charm could have been recorded in 1972. That’s not a criticism, more an appreciation of artists making choices and sticking to those choices.
At the center of The Errant Charm is Cabic’s simple but beautiful melodies. Often songs, for effect, repeat melodic patterns. Those repetitions reoccur just long enough so that often when the song does indeed change, that change is startling. Often the drums are so exact that it almost sounds like a drum machine. The album starts mellow with classic dorm room strummers like “It’s Beyond Me,” and slow boiler “Fog Emotion” and eventually picks up with three tracks: “Right Away,” the politically-charged “Wonder Why,” and the light road anthem “Ride Ride Ride.” Cabic’s lyrics have an easy breezy quality akin to that of his forefathers; he speaks of love and wandering, of tough times and old love – again, classic themes done from the heart.
The Errant Charm is music for a lover’s Sunday in spring or to be sung along to on a long drive to a family picnic. Dare I say both mellow and gold?
Words: Stephe Sykes
Check out our photo gallery review of Vetiver at Spaceland in June of 2010! Click here!
Download a FREE Vetiver track below!