Quiet and restrained
For his latest album as the indie-folk outfit Vetiver, Andy Cabic has crafted a unique and mysterious atmosphere. Entitled Up On High, Cabic uses layers of acoustic guitars and hushed vocals to evoke a dream-like feeling. The album is at times melancholic but Cabic always has a laid-back attitude befitting his California roots.
The album’s first track is “The Living End” which has a restrained quietness. The warmth of the acoustic guitar and crisp drum set are hushed. Cabic revels in the simplicity of the song, while also infusing it with emotion. “Show me the world I’m dreaming of” he sings, around the dreamy soundscape. The song is about hope and moving forward, and “keeping one step ahead of defeat.” The song is followed by “To Who Knows Where” which is similar in mood to its predecessor, so much so it feels like the songs are unseparated. Cabic allows himself to get a little louder and bolder for the song, with more of a “damn naivety” attitude, contemplating the past and looking to the future. Cabic confronts “this long road calling me/ to who knows where” while looking for “one more chance.”
Though Cabic’s lyrics often explore concepts of time, the sound of the album seems to be out of time. Each song has a similar sound, relying mostly on acoustic guitars driven with a crisp and light drum set, which melts the breaks between songs into smooth transitions.
Despite the consistent instrumentation, Cabic explores different styles throughout the album that help it maintain momentum. The mellow but sorrowful “All We Could Want” transitions smoothly into the groovy and syncopated “Hold Tight.” Cabic crafts a mesmerizing chorus singing “Hold tight, we’re already there.” The song is all the more interesting in the way it contrasts the song before and after it, like the album’s title track.
The title song “Up On High” is the epitome of Cabic’s ability to craft tone. The lyrics are simple but impactful. “I’m on the outside looking in,” a feeling he evokes with the far-away sound of the instruments.
Up On High has a very distinctive sound that differs from Vetiver’s earlier work. However, Cabic’s ability to write compelling lyrics and his relaxed attitude makes it seem like singing is the most natural thing he could do.