Cavepainters recently released their sophomore album With the Trees, and it is a folk masterpiece. With the Trees’ banjo-heavy instrumentation, sardonic lyrics, and effortless vocal harmonization reaches back in time to bring the sounds of late 20th century folk music to our ears.
Opener “Heart Full of Smoke” is a great example of how Cavepainters creates the perfect folk combination. With magnificent banjo solos galore, honest storytelling lyrics, and brilliant vocal harmonization reminiscent of Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, “Heart Full of Smoke” drips with the sound of Appalachian folk. Through their refreshing sound and realistic lyrics, the members of Cavepainters really show themselves as an honest band with an honest sound.
Writ large, With the Trees is an album for the people. “Everybody’s working, always working, all day working” is the opening lyric to “Sweet Relief,” which both pokes fun at and validates the hardworking American experience. The band pairs truthful lyrics with an upbeat sound to speak sardonically about the meathook realities of life in a lighthearted way that almost makes it all feel better. The lyrics here and in the rest of the album cover many ongoing American struggles, while the cheerful instrumentation serves to speak into those realities and say, “It’s all gonna be okay!” Cavepainters does a really wonderful job at pairing lyrics to their instrumentation counterpart.
“Little Brooklyn” is yet another example of Cavepainters’ instrumentation and storytelling lyrics being welded together to create a superb salute to true folk music. “Little Brooklyn” is chock full of anecdotal lyrics that truly make you laugh. It compares Chicago to Brooklyn and includes lovely lyrics like “and if skinny yuppie people walk their skinny yuppie pets, who will know?” The banjo/accordion/acoustic guitar arrangement pairs really well with the whimsical lyrics as it makes you sway (and maybe even dance!) to its lighthearted sound.
Although the album is not all whimsy, With the Trees is an album that truly makes you happy to be alive. So if you need validation that life is tough and oh so wonderful, I’d recommend buying Cavepainters’ With the Trees. And even if you don’t need that pick-me-up, I’d say buy it anyways! With the Trees is out now! –Krisann Janowitz
So I’m getting toward the end of my review year, and there’s still a few things in queue. That’s right. It’s time for a REVIEW BLITZ.
Cavepainters – For the Sea. Cavepainters subscribe to the vision of Americana that sees rock’n’roll and singer/songwriter on one long spectrum, with folk, country, jazz, and everything else just somewhere between the two poles. This vision, espoused by bands like The Low Anthem, produces a necessarily varied album that hangs together by the overall spirit of the thing. “Minnesota Blues” is a blues/rag thing, “Falling Leaves” has a Neil Young-esque vibe, and standout “This Crow Flies Alone” cops an Old Crow Medicine Show sing-along style. On the quieter side, “We All Need” and “Kid Gloves” are deeply moving singer/songwriter ballads heavy on atmosphere. “Kid Gloves” is powerful lyrically as well. Cavepainters’ Americana is passionate, literate, and knowledgeable in the genres it appropriates. If you love The Low Anthem as deeply as I do, you will find a new band to love in Cavepainters.
Destroy Nate Allen – Glow in the Dark. DNA is a rowdy folk-punk duo that’s been kicking it for a while, and GITD is a vinyl retrospective of crowd favorites. You’ll get the hilarious “My Parents Managed Apartments,” the uniquely earnest and tender “Loving You,” and a bunch more. If you’re into fast, brash, unkempt songs that you can yell along to in a basement with 30 of your new best friends, this should be your jam. If you doubt that assessment, I direct you to “Jesus, Keep Us Safe From the Cops,” which is the duo and a group of men stomping, clapping, and hollering the titular phrase with increasing frenzy. And, if you’ve gone completely and exclusively banjo, the truly beautiful title track will help you out.
Laura and Greg – Songs EP. It’s an increasingly common tale: out of the ashes of short-lived pop-rock-punk tunesmiths Automotive High School comes a guy/girl folk duo. Laura and Greg lean toward the Jose Gonzalez school of guitar-playing, with gentle yet complex fingerpicking providing the backdrop to the vocals. The titular singers share the mic, giving this duo a bit of an edge on duos that have one primary singer. Opener “Forever For Sure” expands from a little acoustic guitar line into a wide-open indie-pop arrangement, setting a great precedent for their sound. “Same World” is a cheery tune in the vein of the Weepies, while “with nothing” shows off their great skill with melody and rhythm. This 3-song tease shows some incredible songs, and I’m thoroughly excited to see what Laura and Greg cook up next. If you’re into chill guy/girl folk-pop duos, here’s another notable for your (probable) arsenal of them.
MTNS – Salvage EP. Four songs (and a remix) of chill, smooth electronic pop that draws equally from R&B and indie-pop for inspiration. If you like atmospheric tracks that are simultaneously claustrophobic and expansive, hit up “Lost Track of Time”; if you like sexy slow jams, hit up “Lost Track of Time (M-Phazes Remix).” They go most indie on the acoustic guitar-driven “Crave,” while “Fears” is electro goodness. For fans of James Blake, et al.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.