The Errant Charm’s smooth, folksy dream pop has Vetiver coming down from 2009’s sprightly Tight Knit and easing into a hazily euphoric lull with airy vocals and soothing, cyclical guitar melodies. Singer/songwriter Andy Cabic’s subtle jangly guitar picking captures the outside traces of consciousness, and, as with the pied piper, we follow the minstrel.
Deconstructed acoustic guitar cradles Cabic’s balmy voice on opening track “It’s Beyond Me,” which has Vetiver’s frontman rolling with a tide of inexplicably fluctuating rules and expectations. Propped up by a stiff piano, “Worse For Wear” showcases breezy, blithe melodies that clash with accusations of shattered fidelity and rotting romanticism: “Tender trust, hopes betrayed / Withered lies, and old bouquets.”
Channeling the glam pop of Athens, Georgia based of Montreal, “Can’t You Tell” features jaunty electric guitars and a bouncy vocal delivery. Lyrics are obscured behind a wall of tambourines and shakers, as a repetitive drum machine drives the track forward. “Hard to Break” is an unabashedly nostalgic ditty about falling in love with the same girl one too many times. Cabic’s guitar solos are impeccably precise, and soar over the track’s thumping bass line.
Following the success of Tight Knit, Vetiver and vet producer Thom Monahan have teamed up once again; a move that lets the group develop, master and distribute their tunes on a deep-rooted music purveyor. Notably on “Fog Emotion,” where Monahan’s production of exotic instrumentation seeps through love struck lyrics.
“Right Away” has Cabic yearning for a heartland companion and pure, simple Americana. Decrying high brow exhibitions as insignificant and claustrophobic, he longs for an erstwhile lover that’s been left behind: “The gallery felt crowded, I couldn’t see the work upon the wall / Your face was all I saw.” Yet the singer is besieged by doubt, as it’s unclear whether he actually had a real connection with this old flame. As the track fades, “I wonder if we had anything at all,” echoes in psychedelic repetition.
The LP’s most socially conscious cut is “Wonder Why,” which begins with Otto Hauser’s crisp snare drum and a glittering piano. Exposing the rags-to-riches American dream as illusory, the singer whispers that he just “can’t live on what’s given.” Financial institutions have an iron grip on his meager assets, and the sweltering heat drives a crippling insomnia: “The bank has what little I’m able to keep / Sun’s getting hotter, I no longer sleep.” It’s hard times ahead, but all we’ve got to traverse these roadblocks is an endless sea of questions. This anxiety takes a backseat to nonchalance on rambling country rocker “Ride Ride Ride.” Vetiver champions the rejuvenating miracles of coffee alongside fuzzy Bo Diddly hooks, as rakish female backup vocals lobby to add another 500 miles to our joyride.
Abruptly halting this caffeine-induced momentum; the LP winds down with a couple of haunting, tranquil ballads. “Faint Praise” plays as a warning to those striving for fame, as the price of celebrity is revealed as the total loss of autonomy and independence: “Camera’s glare captures it all / You miss the days when no one would call / Now here they come, you’ll never be the only one.” The album concludes with brooding bass and eerie synthesizers on “Soft Glass,” an acid folk cut reminiscent of Vetiver’s eponymous 2004 debut.
Veering from their signature alt-folk ditties chronicling the immediacy of transference and love, The Errant Charm presents a dense rendering of that blissful numbness promised by a life of aloof detachment. Though lacking the visceral potency of the San Francisco band’s live performances, this LP is an innovative step in Vetiver’s evolution from narrow freak folk ensemble to instrumentally tight, genre melding trailblazers
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