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Vetiver in a reflective moment

TIGHT KNIT • Vetiver

Andy Cabic of Vetiver once told me in an interview that the thing that keeps him up at night is knowing that, regardless of how many months, even years he spends making an album, that album will be judged, in many cases, on the basis of one or two spins. That's a problem because from the lovely, self-titled debut on, Vetiver albums have never been the sort to reach out and grab you by the throat. No, these albums that might, on first listen, sound "nice," "relaxing," "ungimmicky." It's only later, after the review's been turned in and the months have passed that you realize there is a lot more than "nice" going on, that the land-mark To Find Me Gone is actually almost ideally balanced between country and pop, between reminiscence and forward-thinking, that it is maybe the most quietly stirring guitar pop album you've heard in a long time.    

Tight Knit is Vetiver's third full-length of original material, the first since 2006's To Find Me Gone.  It most immediately follows last year's excellent covers album Thing of the Past and the related EP More of the Past, applying ideas learned in classic 1960s pop covers to Cabic's unruffled melodic style. Tight Knit is also the first for indie behemoth Sub Pop. You might expect Cabic to use this larger platform to make a more dramatic statement, but while Tight Knit's second half turns the temperature up slightly, it is, again, a record that takes time to love. Here once more are the soothing, cool-toned vocals, the loose-limbed folk arrangements, the dreamy, hammock-snoozing California pop melodies that lap around the edges of your listening ears, rather than flooding them with sensations. It is, as the title implies, smoothly, seamlessly integrated, with elaborate arrangements of strings, percussion, horns and multiple guitars melting effortlessly into the tunes.    

The album divides into two halves, from opener "Rolling Sea" through about "Through the Front Door" revisiting, maybe slightly expanding, but generally staying in line with Vetiver's sunny, folky aesthetic. The single "Everyday" is probably the best iteration of this material, the song that if you know you like Vetiver already, will remind you of what you come to them for.  There are no real surprises here, just very well-crafted, pretty songs that will grow with repeat plays. 

Things turn more interesting in the album's later tracks, starting with the feathery, folk psychedelia of "Down from Above." This song makes use of a wavery, synthetic keyboard sound, a shifting background that makes more conventional guitar and voice elements shimmer like heat mirages.  Vetiver, named after a kind of grass, has always hewed to the all-natural side of things, but on this album, bits of electronic and synthesized elements drift in. There is even a drum machine in "On the Other Side."  

The pace picks up with "More of This," a jangly, country-rocking cut more swagger than swoon, and "Another Reason to Go" rides wah'd guitars over a Stax-y, soulful trajectory, not country blues, just blues. The very best song, though, comes last in "At Forest Edge," a fade-in to ghostly slides and luminous picking that swirls around you until you are lost in its mists. Mysterious, melancholy, indefinite and beautiful, it's the sort of song you can't get to the bottom of in one listen or even ten.   Spend the time, though, it -- and, really, all of Tight Knit -- is worth the trouble.  • Jennifer Kelly


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