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Posted on March 23rd, 2015 (2:00 pm) by Casey Bauer

We don’t know who invented the concept of “genres” but we’d love to flick that guy on the nose.

Yes, genres help to classify music, and that’s important. They give names to musical eras and influences that help shape styles, approaches, and, if concise enough, give us an idea of what something sounds like in just a few short words. Yet, music these days is so intricate and overlapping, we can no longer rely on labels such as “rock,” “country,” or “jazz.” Even labels like “indie rock,” “alt-country,” and “acid-jazz” hardly do the trick anymore, leaving us to resort to even more detailed genre names. While this certainly keeps the music scene creative, it also poses a problem. In an effort to separate themselves and be recognized as something different, musicians oblige to countless new genres. The result? An often times counter productive system to identifying bands and musicians that, as the list goes on, really gets less and less descriptive in truly pinpointing their sound. Also, some guy was actually crazy enough to map out what he counts as 1,374 genres of modern music, and believe it or not, e6fi is one of them. I may be out of line, but that’s a tad excessive.

Vetiver is a band that is commonly identified as “freak folk,” and while that’s a label we can handle, we still didn’t know it was a genre until quite recently. The band's name is really representative of Andy Cabic, who also happens to work with different musicians constantly. His sixth album is Complete Strangers, an appropriate title for songs that Cabic says, “share things in common but come from different places, different times.” This is a romantic idea, but we’re not sure it helped with the continuity of the album as a whole.

The album starts strong, compiling experimental, groovy, and densely layered tracks against one another, justifying the “freak folk” genre label. The opening track, “Stranger Still,” has a basic rock beat, but an obscure keyboard bobs and a saxophone floats lazily overhead, giving the song a world music feel. “From Now On” is all about light pulses that enhance rather than overpower, while “Current Carry” is a beach vibe through and through. Complete with a confident rhythm section and smooth sailing metaphors, Cabic finds his sing-along side and celebrates a comfortable, casual love.

“Confiding” is another love track, though far more seductive. Cabic hits his stride here, and it’s hard not to appreciate the intricacy of the instrumentation. The song feels like a dream and we find ourselves leisurely pinpointing individual parts to love and then love some more.

“Loose Ends” marks a shift in the album where we find ourselves longing for the charm from preceding tracks. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with the song, there’s also nothing particularly interesting, either. Vetiver drops the complex, electronic layers, and settles into something less impressive and more formulaic than what we had heard earlier.

The remainder of the album feels roughly the same, a letdown in light of the promising beginning. Once again, nothing is bad, but at this point, the album drags on and Vetiver loses that “freak” edge, going from psychedelic and dreamy to dull. In six and half minutes, “Edgar” is pretty, but too monotonous and long to maintain the listener's attention. “Last Hurrah” feels the same but it’s actually half the length. Solace is found in “Time Flies,” as Cabic embraces a charming bossa nova groove, though lyrically, the song is rounded and a bit too predictable.

Complete Strangers is an album that regrettably slackens as it wears on, though we applaud Vetiver for experimenting more than the “freak folk” label gives credit for. Sometimes acoustic, sometimes more poppy, folk, or electronic, Vetiver shows us that genre labels can only go so far before they’re no longer applicable. However, that's simply not enough. Equal parts hit or miss, Complete Strangers is a recipe that doesn’t result in the most flavorful of dishes.

Track List:

  1. Stranger Still
  2. From Now On
  3. Current Carry
  4. Confiding
  5. Backwards Slowly
  6. Loose Ends
  7. Shadows Lane
  8. Time Flies
  9. Edgar
  10. Last Hurrah
Vetiver - Complete Strangers Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

59 / 100
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