Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vetiver- Tight Knit

An admittedly egotistical thought experiment I sometimes indulge in: assuming I have children, what will they think of my music? Will they react to different parts of it in varying ways as they grow up, as I did with my parents' music, initially hating Jimi Hendrix and Steely Dan but growing to love both? Will they puzzle over the covers to, say, Animal Collective's Strawberry Jam and Deerhoof's Milk Man as I did with my father's copies of Little Feat's Down On The Farm and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here? More importantly, what albums and artists will not only stand the test of time, but connect with them and their peer group? Sure, I can say this or that band that I like will “stand the test of time”, but that will only really be true for me and certain members of my generation. You can bet that the legends like Miles Davis and The Beatles will endure, since they have, but there's really no telling which of the music I love will last, and what will become forgotten and (more) obscure. Will I be a cranky middle aged man, posting on whatever future versions of Internet message boards are like, lamenting the fact that no one cares about Wolf Parade anymore?

Vetiver's Tight Knit seems crafted to be timeless; I can practically see my daughter (or son) puzzlingly asking me if it was actually released in 2009 or if it was some kind of re-issue (I'm assuming my children will be as music nerdy as me, and will actually care about such things). However, I should say that by “timeless” I don't really mean it like people normally do, in a. I would argue that Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest is timeless, both because it's an amazing album and because it doesn't belong to an obvious genre from an obvious era, like, say, 80s synth-pop or 70s funk. Tight Knit, then, is timeless in the sense that there's an easy going and mellow charm to its acoustic guitar based music that makes one think “mid-to-late 60s” as much as the “late 00s.” Due to this sound, and the band's ties to Devendra Banhart, they're most often lumped in with psych-folk...but they lack Devendra Banhart's quirks and weirdness, as well as not being particularly psychedelic, and certainly not folk by the strict definition of purists. Anyway, my point is, there's no fancy genre flourishes or easily labelled “style” to Vetiver that would make my daughter (or son) ask me why I don't own more death metal or electro-clash.

You'll notice I used the word “charm” a bit ago. It's a word I rarely find myself going to in the context of music reviews. I don't really know why; maybe I don't conflate personality traits with music like some people do. Whatever the case, Tight Knit is a charming album. Maybe it's because I had been listening to a lot of The Sea And Cake before I heard this album, but it does remind me of the way their music doesn't elicit particularly strong reactions from me, but I keep listening to it and end up adoring it. I would say that I liked Tight Knit the first time I heard it, but with return trips its subtleties and personality have, here's that word again, charmed me. The almost-groovy loping rhythm and melodies of 'Sister' are in no hurry to get anywhere, and the album as a whole carries the feel of music that could go on twice as long as it does and still be enjoyable. You can almost picture the band vamping on this song for 15 minutes in the studio while they're finishing their 3rd beer and waiting for the BBQ to be done. Tight Knit is also an album that surprises from time to time, whether it's the emphatic drums, solid electric rhythm guitar, and graceful vocal melodies of 'More Of This' which sounds like Belle & Sebastian covering a song from the first Strokes album, or the dreamy, nocturnal 'Down From Above', a rustic counterpart to Yo La Tengo's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.

There is an unassuming excellence to this music that defies both your expectations and subsequent affection for it. Due to its timeless sound, its lack of stylistic flourishes, its total sidestepping of wringing emotional reactions or wrangling the modern Zeitgeist, Tight Knit is just a damn near perfect gem of an album that will probably never win any awards (it would retroactively edge out Album by Girls on my top 10 of '09, for what that's worth) but will, hopefully, be uncovered by listeners digging past the big names for something less known in the years and decades to come. If one of those people happens to be one of my children, well, that'd be groovy, as my Dad used to say with a faint hint of sincerity in his voice.

5 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5

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