Strange things are happening in Pacific Northwest. No, it’s not the bulbous, floundering whales, nor is it the absurd, so-tall-it’s-not-even-cool-anymore trees. And it has nothing to do with Starbucks. But we’re getting warmer. Haha, that was almost a pun. But I digress.
Today’s story is kind of like the classic rags-to-riches tales of old. Except, judging by the slightly meager playcounts on http://www.myspace.com/thecavesingers, and by my conferring with the Ghosts of Indie Bands Past, Indie Bands Present, and Indie Bands Yet to Come, The Cave Singers will probably remain in the same tax bracket indefinitely. But then again, Mozart died poor too, so go figure.
Anyways, the true mystery is something I’ve been wondering for a long time. Well, not a long time, but at least for as long as I’ve been listening to this album. It’s a rather interesting conundrum, and I’d better just spit it all out in one mouthful:
Somehow, seemingly via some sort of pact with the devil, The Cave Singers has made gigantic, exponential leaps and bounds to become one of the biggest new names in folk music. It came out of nowhere. I mean, who are these guys? To tell you the truth, I’m not so sure just how it happened, but the moral of the story is that it did, and that this band rules.
The Cave Singers is a trio of scruffy, moppy gentlemen who hail from Seattle, the self-proclaimed “Flannel Capital of the Universe.” Each of the three players is a former member of some mediocre post-(fill in the blank) rock band, who decided to escape and go back to a simpler time. So they all re-defined their angsty approach to music, learned new instruments, and gave themselves a new, down-to-earth-name.
Their 2007 debut release, Invitation Songs, was slightly underwhelming, but it did perhaps show some signs of future excellence. So for all of you who saw this coming you can now rightfully turn to your friends and tell them “I told you so.” But Invitation Songs took the whole Americana theme a little too literally. It was largely composed of glorified campfire songs, and its inexpensive production methods left something to be desired.
Two years pass, and we find The Cave Singers to be much more comfortable in the studio. The group’s newly-perfected acoustic sound is warm and inviting, and you can just tell from the sound of it that these guys always play sitting down. They are always careful and deliberate. Whatever rushed, hurried, methods they might have previously used on earlier recordings is now gone. True to their acoustic mantra, they maintain an earthy, naturistic, rootsy feel. Not as in a “twangy country,” but as in, “if Fleet Foxes had more facial hair then they might sound like this.” They even throw in washboards and harmonicas and give a nod to the oft-neglected blues music of the Mississippi River Delta. From even the first listen, it is evident that The Cave Singers has perfected the ghostly, resonating qualities of minimalism that separate it from a hoard of meditative, chai-sipping imitators.
Welcome Joy is somber and sweet enough to be enjoyed on calm evenings, but yet packs enough punch that you won’t be embarrassed if you leave it in your car when you pick up your best buds from lacrosse practice. It is a treasure trove anthology of styles, all led by the powerful, wailing voice of Pete Quirk. His unique vocal blend is perfectly complimented by gentle, throbbing drum pulses and Derek Fudesco’s masterfully rationed guitar work. Each pluck is gentle and deliberate. There are no wasted notes and none of that awful, mindless strumming that saturates contemporary indie music. Each hit of the string is left to resonate, creating a gentle, almost haunting atmosphere.
And the thing is, that The Cave Singers seem to have risen to these levels of greatness overnight. How did they get this good? Washes of warm pigments and wistful, breezy sounds abound. Impressionistic lyrics and smooth guitar interplay float by. This is the perfect album for shooting the breeze or enjoying the outdoors. Songs are warm and inviting, and they maintain that sort of “Sticky Sweet Honey Goodness” that scientists have recently found to be the primary ingredient in the soundtrack to your best summer memories. Welcome Joy is the perfect, earthy balance of the grittiest and the sweetest splendors that the Pacific has to offer. I feel like I would enjoy this record even better if I were a more frequent participator in No Shave November. But regardless, it’s still damn good.