Top marks to Bella Union for putting one of The Errant Charm's standout tracks, "Can't You Tell" on their site recently. I'd never even heard of Vetiver before, but played the track non-stop for days with a smile on my face... and was it just me or did the weather seem sunnier as a result? The album itself delivers more in a similar vein but throws in a few twists here and there with the rockier "Ride Ride Ride" and the ultra low-fi "Faint Praise", the latter being one of my favourite tracks of 2011 (so far). It doesn't quite get a 5-star rating as a couple of the tracks are a little under-whelming, but I wouldn't be surprised if these grow on me through the summer as this album will be getting a lot of air-play.
This is a fantastic new album from Vetiver - it will work for anyone who likes 'modern-retro' guitar sounds such as Will Oldham, Bon Iver, The Coral, Fleet Foxes, The Bees, Gruff Rhys, SFA, Devendra Banhart, and their influences - The Byrds, Neil Young, Velvets etc. But it also has it's hazier "shoegaze" moments that remind me of music like Engineers or early Verve. This is a very dreamy album, less traditionally folky than previous efforts but has lush harmonies and a groove and is right up there with anything else released this year.
And in fact is well ahead of Bon Iver's new album to be honest...
More beautiful tunes and atmospherics to complement a perfect summer. The Errant Charm finds Vetiver at the top of their game, with a new sound that permeates and unifies the whole album. It's a record that will stay with you and make you miss it if you leave it at home. Andy Cabic and co. are the hidden gems of Sub Pop/Bella Union. Buy now!
This review comes from an internet game. You buy an album you’ve never heard of from a shop. Then you write your impression of it before and after listening to it for the first time.
---BEFORE LISTENING TO IT---
WHY DID YOU SELECT THIS ONE? I was looking through the music section that usually has the most interesting, obscure, oddball finds. The cover isn't very good but somehow it stood out from the rack and made me pick it up with curiosity. I couldn't quite read the typeface so I'm only guessing at the band name and album title. The song titles on the back are easier to read. They inspire mild hopes in me as they are slightly odd sounding.
1. It's Beyond Me 6:39 2. Worse For Wear 3:41 3. Can't You Tell 4:29 4. Hard To Break 4:14 5. Fog Emotion 3:43 6. Right Away 2:57 7. Wonder Why 3:24 8. Ride Ride Ride 4:07 9. Faint Praise 4:44 10. Soft Grass 4:50
The clincher was that the record label is Bella Union. I don't collect any record labels because they mean little to nothing, but they have a fairly cohesive roster of artists with many falling into the ambient genre. A lot of their bands have floated my boat in the past so I consider them to be a label of substance and quality.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE COVER? It's a boring pink and orange wave of paint surrounded by black. It's not good. The blankness suggests they are a faceless ambient band.
WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC ARE YOU REALISTICALLY EXPECTING? Gauzy, ambient music with an undertow of rock. Similar to other Bella Union acts like I Break Horses and Our Broken Garden.
BEST CASE SCENARIO IT WILL SOUND LIKE? The above. Preferably with female vocals. Clear lyrics or buried in the mix vocals are fine with me. I also don't mind either guitars or keyboards dominating.
WORST CASE SCENARIO IT WILL SOUND LIKE? Slow, dreary singer-songwriter music that the label also specialises in - like Laura Viers. Or a crap all male rock band that are too timid to actually rock.
HIGH, LOW OR MIDDLING EXPECTATIONS? Almost high.
ANY OTHER COMMENTS? Now I’ve had to Google them for the album artwork [to post with these comments] I see that the album title is The Errant Charm.
---AFTER LISTENING TO IT---
WHAT DID IT SOUND LIKE? Bland male singer-songwriter with a guitar. There was almost a hint of the single most offensive album I've ever heard (Pala by Friezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).
DID YOU LIKE IT? I can only shrug my shoulders with indifference. It's neither good or bad. The lyrics are very bland to the point I ignore them and instead just pay attention to the instruments. The melodies are weak but there is a nice clarity to the sound that I like. I guess it's well produced with not too much cluttering the tracks which gives the music some space to breathe. All good ambient music has space in the mix. Technically I'm sure it's singer-songwriter, but I think it's a very weak album for that genre. Instead I just treat it as ambient music. In iTunes I've tagged it as such. His voice is pleasant, just a shame he has nothing interesting to say - which is rather important if you're competing in the same ballpark as Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Vega etc.
DID IT SATISFY, SURPASS OR FAIL YOUR EXPECTATIONS? Failed. Sort of. I was looking for gauzy ambient music so I did kind of find what I was looking for. If I use my imagination.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WEAKEST SONGS? Nothing stood out. At all. I can't recall a lyric or hum a tune from the album. It was very consistently blandly okay from start to finish. I don't think there was a single good or bad song on it that I could have much of an opinion on. The most distinctive thing I can remember is thinking that the drums on the opening track sounded really good with a lovely clarity.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT TO OTHERS? No. I wouldn't chase anyone away from it, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's too indifferent and tepid to be worth bothering with. I suggest people get on with their lives without wasting their time on this. Infinitely more interesting music exists elsewhere.
PLEASE DESCRIBE AND SUM IT UP IN ONE SENTENCE. Bland male singer-songwriter with weak melodies and even weaker lyrics, but not offensively bland.
ANY OTHER COMMENTS? If I was feeling generous I would give it 5 out of 10 since I can't work up much of an opinion one way or the other over it. If I was to do that I would be rewarding middle of the road blandness. So I'll give it 4 out of 10. It's perfectly pleasant and listenable; and it didn't outright bore or annoy me.
I do wonder though why this guy (I don't think they're a band) has/had a record contract. Who heard this music and thought to themselves: we needed to sign him up? If ever there was an artist who didn't need to release anything since he had nothing to say, or did it with any great skill, then this was him. I feel he has contributed nothing worthwhile to the world of music.
He reminds me slightly of Gary Jules. He had a hit single with a stripped down cover of 'Mad World' by Tears for Fears. His other songs all disappeared without trace as he just wasn't even remotely interesting. This is how I feel about this music. I don't hate it, and I don't mind having it on my iPod (for now anyway), but in the end who cares? Why should anyone care about something this generic and uninspired?
I listened to the album three times before writing this.
---A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER---
I returned it a day or two after buying it. I have no use for such generic mediocrity. It never made the leap from my computer’s iTunes library onto my iPod. I never intend to waste my time listening to it ever again so I wiped it from my computer’s hard drive. It wasn’t technically bad; it was just meaningless and pointless in my opinion.
A few days later I was flicking through an old 2011 copy of Word Magazine when I came across a one paragraph review of Vetiver’s The Eviant Charm. The reviewer said that it sounded nice and competent as music for a coffee shop, but it was too bland to rise above the general background din and make itself heard. He further said that it could be good if only the songwriter had any interest in creating one memorable song.