Friday, 15 July 2011

Album Review: Vetiver - The Errant Charm

[Sub Pop/Bella Union, 2011]

Vetiver, a band based around the talkents of Andy Cabic, have been around for a while now, without really making all that much of an impression on the music scene around them - I was very surprised to learn this is their fifth record, as I have only heard snippets of a few songs by them in the past and had lumped them in with the new breed of sunshine-laced afternoon pop bands. It's not a disaster getting into them this late, though, as everyone seems pretty agreed that none of their records stray very far from the same basic formula. A few songs stand out - the wistful 'Right Away', the warm 'Worse For Wear'. Actually, any of these songs could be described as both 'wistful' and 'warm' - the album flows through this furrow for long periods with barely any surprises or even points of interest at all. Not until 'Wonder Why', more than half way through the album, do we get to anything that could get radio play. That isn't really to say the album is down-beat, though - barring the beginning and end, where Cabic seems to have placed his most contemplative songs, it really does get quite rocky at points.

There is a lot of very good, pretty varied pop songwriting on show here, and overally the album has an absolutely lovely feel to it. It's all very much of-its-type - a lot of the chord patterns and progressions are obviously very at home on an indiepop record, and there were quite a few points where I noticed big similarities to other bands in the genre (Aberfeldy being the main one, despite this record being much more laid-back and 'swoony' than anything the Edinburgh popsters have ever released). The melodies are pretty, and would make for an enjoyable afternoon in the sun, without ever coming close to imprinting themselves on your brain. Gently strummed jangly guitars, intricate yet discreet drumbeats and softly spoken vocals all seem to accompany each other for much of the album, without any one of them taking the lead, making for a beautiful record that unfortunately seems to melt into the background slightly too often.