05 July, 2008

Tapping a new vein (turning over a new page?)

In any event, it is high time for a change.

I looked through my playlists the other day, only to find that I keep repeating myself musically. For one thing, "Little Wing" seems to pop up everywhere. I love the song, and I do have alternate versions (a live version, a Derek and the Dominoes cover), but how many mixes are really in need of "Little Wing"? I don't want to become musically redundant. ZOX, the Replacements, Peter Gabriel, Rancid, and The Specials can be found consistently in my personal mixes. They're comfort food, I know, but I need to start "mixing" it up a little and playing some of my less loved albums. There's a lot of good music that I have ignored for far too long.

When I'm feeling less then unique, I will often pull a Garden State (for those who haven't seen the movie, 1. It's basically when you perform an action or say something that you're pretty certain no one has EVER said in the same place you are saying it and in the same way; and 2. Go see the movie!!). There are other times when I'm feeling a little more introverted and a bit more vulnerable, so I build a pillow fort in my "bat cave" (a.k.a. my bedroom), I plug in the headphones, and I treasure hunt for new music. Live music venues are excellent for this purpose, along with Myspace, other music blogs, iTunes, and the great alternative radio stations (KEXP, WERS, KCRW). Today, I hit up KEXP to see if they had any new band recommendations, and I found the Cave Singers.

The name conjures hunter-gatherer imagery for some reason, along with smoky fires and Lascaux style artwork. I have in my mind something vaguely primal, and Invitation Songs does buzz with an energy current all its own. There's a tension to the songs that is undeniable, and it's not computer generated or based around the technology inherent in the instruments. The tension is something altogether more natural, like the feeling I have before a thunderstorm. On "Seeds of Night" the Cave Singers strum and percuss like they're in the midst of a sun-shower. The song is warm and playful, and lacking in any sort of artistic pretension. "Helen" is less relaxed and more insistent, but certainly just as enjoyable. It's a rock song with the consistency and stripped-down punk aesthetic of the Replacements' best material. However, where the Replacements have always made dirty, city music, "Helen" is as clean as fresh cut grass. "Dancing On Our Graves" is the evident single, with a rustling, rhythmic melody. "Cold Eye" is very soft, twilight music. The song circles around Pete Quirk's vocals, which are a bundle of contrasts. Quirk's voice has an underlying harsh quality (think braying wolves) that somehow fits in beautifully with the softest songs on the album, "Cold Eye" included. When I listen to "Elephant Clouds" I can just imagine that feeling of lying on the grass and watching clouds hustle by, morphing from dragons into butterflies as they're pushed across the sky. I am a big fan of cloud watching, and "Elephant Clouds" is absolutely perfect soundtrack music. On "New Monuments" the percussion takes center stage (the drums are mic'ed louder than any of the other instrumentals) and lends a harder, more dangerous quality to the song. "Oh Christine" on the other hand is driven by a wailing harmonica that sounds very comfortable in the midst of the basic drum and guitar melody; and "Bricks of Our Home" is a beautiful song that also plays up the harmonica. The bonus track - "Backyards" - is worth mentioning if only for the emotion that it expresses. On much of the album, emotional sincerity is visible (everything seems stripped to its foundation) but the cracking of Quirk's voice as he sings the line "all I want to do is stay here with you" on "Backyards" sends shivers down my spine.

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