CD Review: The Cave Singers, Invitation Songs (Matador, 2008)

The Cave Singers - Invitation SongsI sat down to review last night’s Band of Horses gig for whom The Cave Singers opened, but it seemed wrong to write about that live set without first giving an assessment of The Cave Singers’ debut album, which has been glued to the CD player in our kitchen for about three weeks now, having arrived in our postbox, ostensibly delivered by the happiness faeries who thought we needed something uplifting and utterly remarkable to raise our spirits during a gloomy February.

The Ledge first spirited the album away to his car, as he does with pretty much everything good, thereby damning me to never hear any new CDs until weeks after I’ve seen the band in question live, struggling to get to grips with hearing new material live for the first time and take it in properly. I asked him what it was like and he told me it sounded a bit like Grant Lee Buffalo, which excited me. Then I got into his car and heard the album. It sounds nothing like Grant Lee Buffalo, thereby proving what I have suspected for quite some time – The Ledge is entirely deaf and only pretends he can hear music. It explains why he thinks the neighbours can’t hear it when he plays his guitar turned up to 11 at midnight and it also explains his extensive Stereolab collection.

The Ledge-bashing aside, however, as much as this album doesn’t sound like Grant Lee Buffalo, it does sound remarkably like the bastard redneck bearded child of Alex Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Mark Greany of JJ72 attempting to cover their own songs in the style of Bob Dylan. If that sounds awful, I apologise for the hideous mental image but quite frankly it works brilliantly.

The album is a collection of poppy folk songs that evoke feelings of sticky summer evenings, rural settings and romantic yearnings. The most noticeable aspects of these songs are not the somewhat unusual bittersweet, tender lyrics which continually reference nature, wildlife and the physical sensations of emotional connection, but rather the yearning tone of the vocals and the simple, captivating guitar melodies, picked out carefully, note-by-note, which overtake everything else. Despite being very minimal – only three instruments and vocals on most of the tracks – the record feels very full and lush to me, perhaps because it causes more of an overall feeling as a finished whole rather than its songs standing out on a track-by-track basis. Very rarely does an album manage to capture a sensation so wholly through the way in which the melodies, the lyrics and the rhythms all blend together like one organic whole, sounding as though they sprung fully-formed like some strange Siamese-triplet beast from the breast of a country-music-worshipping forest nymph to run naked through the woods of the deep southern U.S. before taking a lazy nighttime dip in the Mississippi river and setting up camp for the night on the edge of the prairie, wind whistling through the grass and wolves howling in the distance.

What can I say? Invitation Songs took a few listens to really get to grips with the unique nature of the vocals, but it is definitely worth the effort. It is both beautiful and shocking and is going to make a lot of bloggers’ top 10 lists come the end of 2008.

The Cave Singers – Helen

2 Responses to “CD Review: The Cave Singers, Invitation Songs (Matador, 2008)”

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