Vetiver: The Errant Charm

Written by June 14th, 2011 at 10:11 am

Vetiver
The Errant Charm
Rating: ★★★½☆
(Sub Pop)

A lot of artists use a similar formula when it comes to putting out records: write an accessible, likeable debut and develop a solid fan base, then start getting experimental when you know you’ve got them hooked and have some artistic leeway. Sub Pop indie act Vetiver did it backwards. Their 2004 self-titled debut pinned Vetiver into the “freak folk” genre with artists like Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom, both of whom guested on a handful of the record’s tracks. Later releases, especially 2008’s Tight Knit, showed that songwriter/vocalist Andy Cabic and company had more up their sleeves than whimsical arrangements and trippy lyrics and solidified the band as an understated, underrated precursor to the folk/Americana movement about to take the indie scene by storm (Mumford & Sons, anyone?).

Vetiver’s latest record, The Errant Charm, is certainly more folk than freak. Opener “It’s Beyond Me” contains its fair share of ambient keys and synth sounds, but is really driven by the acoustic guitar framing Cabic’s vocals, as is much of the rest of the record. “Wonder Why,” the record’s first single, shows Cabic experimenting with a bit of pop, while throwing in some of the Townes Van Zandt sensibilities Tight Knit began to utilize in earnest– twangy guitar solo, crunchy power chords and all. “Faint Praise” and “Soft Glass” are the closest the record has to Vetiver-era throwbacks, though they still mark the sound of a band long down a new road.

Lyrically, The Errant Charm shows Cabic more than ever to be a storyteller—“Hard to Break” tells a story of longing many of us know too well, while “Worse for Wear,” perhaps inspired by the same tumultuous relationship, is a gentle ode to hope within heartbreak. Working within more traditional instrumentation seems to have put Cabic in a more straightforward lyrical mindset, as well, making for the band’s most cohesive effort to date.

Die-hard fans of the Vetiver of old might be disappointed by The Errant Charm’s affirmation of the band’s new direction, but the record should also serve as a nice gateway for new listeners. After all, a record as gorgeous as this one deserves to be heard by many.

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