When I sat down to listen to Vetiver’s The Errant Charm, it was cold outside and raining hard; and this album felt perfect for the occasion. The calm and warm sounds of the band’s fifth studio album suited the wet British summer outside my window, so well. And as the band hail from San Francisco, I’m guessing they’d be perfect for a Californian Winter.
The Errant Charm seems to draw from many different influences, which have resulted in a calming but driven album, dreamily acoustic on the surface but fiery and raw beneath. The fact that the lead singer and driving force Andy Cabic has collaborated with psych folk artist Devendra Banhart, producing and co-writing Barnhart’s 2005 album Cripple Crow seems to fit together nicely, and the same elements are scattered across this LP.
The album starts with the soft and sweet introduction to ‘It’s Beyond Me’, a simple, understated song with a heart beat kick drum to keep things moving until the band creep in. ‘Worse For Wear’ takes over where the first song began, but you quickly realise you’re in a different place when that same beating heart style kick drum is beating faster, and you know this album is beginning to build. In fact, as each songs elapses, Vetiver build the tension underneath this album, drawing you in while somehow still keeping you grounded in that warm, peaceful place.
The more upbeat ‘Can’t You Tell’ and the direct yet dreamy ‘Fog Emotion’ bring a rich mixture of psychedelic sounds and Bossa Nova, echoing such diverse references as Brazilian artists Tom Jobim and Os Mutantes. But these touches are subtle and tastefully used, like they’re ticking away in the background, almost impossible to hear but always present.
By the time you get to the brisk and melodious ‘Right Away’, you know you’re locked in to this album. With rich melodies and driving acoustics that fill you with that West Coast feeling, you can’t help think of The Byrds or Flying Burrito Brothers, but as usual, this album remains true to its own sound and purpose.
But although the scene has been set and the journey is more than halfway through, Vetiver manage to take things up a gear without disturbing the flow. ‘Wonder Why’ and ‘Ride Ride Ride’ are filled with a new energy that changes folk into rock, bridging the gap in the process. The band feel warmed up and raucous, as lo-fi riffs and pounding drums give you a wake-up call before giving way to this album’s final, more peaceful tracks ‘Faint Praise’ and ‘Soft Glass’.
With The Errant Charm, Vetiver have succeeded in creating something beautiful but troubled with a healthy dose of psychedelic darkness. They make the West Coast accessible to anyone, without ever really giving in to their roots or surroundings. When the summer let’s you down and moves on way before it should, The Errant Charm will be there to ease your pains.
Released on 13th June 2011 by Bella Union