East coast American Indie-folk band Vetiver has been around since 2004, recording and performing their laid back music. Folk and folk-influenced music has been undeniably successful over the last few years with the emergence of Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Ray Lamontagne, Noah and the Whale and many others on an exhaustive list that demonstrates the wide variety of sounds that can be justifiably associated with the genre. Songwriter and vocalist Andy Cabic is a close friend of Devendra Banhart (they’ve also collaborated many times), and their material is quite alike. If I had to describe Vetiver’s sound in one word it’d be “relaxed”- there are no rousing choruses or dramatic, attention grabbing vocal moments. If you’re after some folk thrills go for the stunning Fleet Foxes track ‘Helplessness Blues’; if you’re in need of something calm and serene you could do a lot worse than The Errant Charm.
Browsing through the band’s back catalogue, a track which seem to typify their non-threatening, chilled out sound is ‘Everyday’ from 2009. It’s pleasant to listen to, simple with a refreshing clarity. The Errant Charm continues along the same path, though perhaps a little updated – it’s not wholly acoustic and it feels as if it’s been thoughtfully created. Guitars, drums and vocals are still the cornerstones of the band, but there are added extras, and happily the result is like a mirage rippling in Californian sun.
The album opens with ‘It’s Beyond Me’, a six and a half minute track, with whirling background haze, characteristic strummed acoustic guitar and Cabic’s soft vocals- a solid start that, even though it’s long, is a satisfying and enjoyable listen. ‘Worse for Wear’ follows. About the end of a relationship – “well now you’re free no worse for wear/to find someone who really cares” – like most of Vetiver’s songs the melody is stable and the accompaniment provides a full, rounded sound. Some might call it boring; I’d say it’s unfussy and direct. ‘Fog Emotion’ is a similarly gentle track. I like the cheery feel of ‘Can’t You Tell’, it’s warm and summery, nicely rhythmic and synthy.
The mood brightens further with ‘Wonder Why’, the first single from the album, which flows along with some mellow keys, picked guitar and soft vocal harmonies – one of the more up-tempo tracks. ‘Ride Ride Ride’ has a slightly rockier, bluesy feel, making use of electric guitars, tambourine and more than a hint of Sixties influence. ‘Faint Praise’ is a wave of quivery chords, slow tempo and drowsy guitar solo – the sound is good, but it’s the only point of the album where I felt that Vetiver had slowed things down too much, to almost sleep-inducing levels; though I can see any extreme quickening of tempo may have disrupted the overall calm effect they desired, I personally feel they should’ve provided some variety to keep the listener more awake.
All things considered this is a good album and Vetiver executed all they have attempted to a high quality, I just wish they had attempted a little more diversity. They’re like The Byrds of the 21st century, skilful makers of dreamy Californian Folk and well worth a listen. If you have time to spare on a lazy afternoon this summer, relax with Vetiver’s cool and understated vibe.
Good: Beautifully summery and generally uplifting.
Bad: It’s pretty safe (though I personally am not too bothered by that)