It must be hard making a record that sounds laid back.If you try too hard, you’re going to botch that blissful, sunny vibe, but if you swing the other way and get a little too horizontal, you’re going to slide into sleep-inducing territory. The laid back tightrope is one that Vetiver have always managed to straddle quite well, their last album Tight Knit expertly capturing the mood of a summer stroll around mainman Andy Cabic’s San Francisco hometown, brightened occasionally with a brisk foray into more forceful psych-rock territory.
For the follow up, Vetiver have added a slightly different flavour to the mix in order to invigorate The Errant Charm. But the base ingredients are still the same. Cabic’s wistful, wavering voice still flutters around some strummed acoustics and waves of guitar, while melodies that at first seem slight manage to weave their way into your subconscious.
While Tight Knit was a little more rockin’, The Errant Charm goes the other way, peppering its songs with elements of chillout to become seriously laid back. At first, this does seem like a slight misstep, as The Errant Charm isn’t as instant as its predecessor, but the quality of Cabic’s songwriting which underpins the entire operation ensures that this formula pays off after repeated listens.
Opener ‘It’s Beyond Me’ is one of the best examples of this. With a constant throbbing drone underpinning the track, it stretches out languidly over six and a half minutes, building gently through waves of feedback and slide guitar before dismantling itself just as slowly. Not far behind is ‘Can’t You Tell’, built over a skipping beat and spaced-out vocals that meander low in the mix.
Obviously, this is all well and good if you’re soundtracking a barbeque or a TV ad for some outdoor furniture, but if you came to the band through the more instant last LP you could feel a little short changed. Thankfully, The Errant Charm isn’t a complete chillout zone. ‘Hard To Break’ is more of a straight-up psychedelic pop song, opening over chiming guitars and throwing in some beautiful harmonies straight from the box marked Instant California Sunshine Sound. Elsewhere ‘Ride, Ride, Ride’ is the rockiest thing on the LP, a slight riff built up by an insistent rhythm and some rippling guitar breaks.
For the most part though, The Errant Charm is marked by subtle beats and expansive drones that underpin most of the tracks and add an interesting new dimension to the band’s sound. It’s not a massive thing – it’s not Vetiver Does Dance by a long shot, and the band’s wistful folk-rock is still the most obvious part of proceedings. It’s just that Cabic has found some natural links between his music and another world, and he’s reached out and made a connection – in a very laid back way, obviously.
7Aaron Lavery's Score