Caveman – a five man vibe collective from NYC – released their first album in 2011. As first albums go, CoCo Beware was something akin to a moody statement of intent, a blueprint for a band quickly learning how to create horizon-wide rock songs that were equal parts intimate and expansive. Initially self-released and later snatched up by Fat Possum for re-release in early 2012, the record brims over with four-part harmonies, crystalline guitar lines, and tracks that see-sawed between echoey lullaby (“A Country’s King of Dreams”) to shoegaze-by-way-of classic-FM-radio sprawl (“Old Friend”). The album quickly elevated Caveman from local band to watch to a sizable touring draw and formidable live act, as evidenced by stints on the road with the likes of The War On Drugs and Built to Spill. Despite being the work of a brand new band, CoCo Beware displayed a kind of Zen-like ease. It was the sound of five friends settling into a nice groove; the music that happens when, for whatever reason, a lot of seemingly disparate elements finally fall into place.
On their self-titled sophomore albm Caveman stretch their legs in a number of different, albeit cohesive, directions. While the dreaded second album experience tends to be fraught for many bands, in the case of Caveman it proved to be the opposite. Having ridden a fastrowing wave of support for CoCo Beware – which, after two years of touring, ultimately culminated in a series of big hometown NYC shows – recording a follow up proved to be a genuine good time for the band.
It’s fair to say that the songs on Caveman benefitted from a solid year of touring on the band’s part. “We really learned how to play together,” says keyboardist Sam Hopkins, “the shorter songs from the first record got longer and longer when we played them live. We learned how to stretch ourselvves in different ways.” As a result, the guitars on Caveman are bigger and more expansive, the rhythm section is tighter and more adventurous, the keyboards more opaque and pronounced. Like a marriage between Tangerine Dream, late period Slowdive, and Lindsey Buckingham, tracks like their new single “In the City” and “Ankles” boast synth lines that sound simultaneously retro and futuristic, while”Pricey” and “Never Want to Know” overflow with guitar sounds that could have miraculously floated off an old Cure album. (It should be noted that James Carbonetti, the band’s primary guitar player, also happens to be one of the most highly regarded guitar makers in New York City). And while Caveman’s music could certainly operate on the devel of dreamy soundscape and still be excellent, the depth of feeling in front man Matthew Iwanusa’s lyrics helps weave the songs deeply into your memory. Asin the case with many a band on the rise, the price of popularity often comes at the surprise expense of everyone’s own personal life; a topic that fuels many of he record’s best tracks. When Iwanusa sings “Where’s the time to waste on someone else’s life?” on “Where’s the Time” it’s hard not to read between the lines. Wonder and regret seem to fuel the record in almost equal measure.
The words “dreamy” and “cinematic” and “vibe” might be some of the most lazily overused descriptors in the music-writer’s lexicon, but it’s hard to think of another contemporary band that so completely embraces those terms as both an adjective for what they do and as a goal for the art they are trying to make. “A lot of people don’t relate to the idea of cinematic music – something that sounds like a film soundtrack – but I love that notion,” says Iwanusa. “I love music that conjures a mood, sets a tone, and inspires a certain kind of visual. I hope people can get that from this record; a sound that accompanies this big ship flying through the trees, this big, crazy light that just fills up the sky.”