Vetiver – To Find Me Gone (DiChristina Stair)

The new folk movement, driven largely by San Francisco artists Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart and spacier bands like Brightback Morning Light showcase a kind “freeness” and eclecticism, reminiscent of the ethos propagated by the 60’s era Bay Area bands. Vetiver, a kind of super group of the above-mentioned artists, is really a band built around the songs and silky sweet vocals of Andy Cabic. In many ways this is the easiest, most accessible of the new folk records yet.

“To Find Me Gone” is a gently strummed, largely acoustic masterpiece that just kind of meanders in no particular hurry, but blanketed with emotions. To imply that the album exists somewhere between those Nick Drake and Elliot Smith would be a bit of a simplification, but as general points of reference they make some sense. On this, the second full length, you will hear the strings, piano, a hushed drums and guitars that grace the music of these earlier icons, but of course Vetiver is something new in addition to being something old refashioned.

Although some might dismiss the 11 songs on “To Find Me Gone” as charming background music, to me it is essential headphone or driving music, to be heard as an album from beginning to end, again and again.

8.5 out of 10

Order It Now From Amazon

The Fearless Freaks: The Wonderfully Improbable Story of The Flaming Lips (2005)

To make music for over twenty years, twelve proper records in all, with almost every record better than the last, with the exception of the 1999 opus “The Soft Bulletin” being the best, is an accomplishment reserved for less than a handful of bands in the history of rock. To have chronicled this ascent on film for the duration is an even luckier feat. But for The Flaming Lips, as we get to know them over the course of their career, it couldn’t happen to a nicer and more deserved bunch of guys. And of course, as we know, it is always better to be lucky and good.

Born out of the theoretically cultural dead zone of Oklahoma, the band, which has always been the creative living art project of singer Wayne Coyne, has grown from a noisy psychedelic cacophony to an orchestrally sophisticated pop super group. With an evolving cast of characters including early iterations with Wayne’s brothers and high school chums, to its current line-up featuring the musically gifted multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd who helped lift the band into the musical elite, that story of this band is the story of persistence, creativity and friendship. It is also a tale of remaining modest and appreciative in the face of stardom. Still making their home in Oklahoma, the band seems to have discovered the importance of living in the moment, making personal happiness a priority and sharing this ethos through song.

The story of the band is as uplifting as the music that they create. At its core it is about finding joy and having fun. This struggle wasn’t always easy, as we learn in the film, but eventually passion pays off and for this we, the fans, owe a profound gratitude. In the words of Wayne Coyne himself, “We have had a truly had wonderful and accidental career.”

9.5 out of 10

Order It Now From Amazon

Gomez – How We Operate (ATO)

It struck me initially, like a brick hitting my head from two feet away, as a very bad idea for the wonderful and historically hippy-trippy British collective Gomez, to have signed to Dave Matthews’ label to make a pop record. Together with spiritual brethren The Beta Band, for almost a decade the two bands owned there own genre in my library: stoney, groove-laden, indie rock. But as the Beta Band struggled to recapture the infectiousness of the debut “Three-EP’s” collection, Gomez migrated further along the pop spectrum but never in such a overt way as this. With a way of never seeming too out there, but just enough off the beaten path, there was no need to compromise – just keep evolving.

But sitting here, gazing out at a near perfect July day, I have to confess that besides a few songs that sound almost too perfect to become attached to in any kind of long-term way, “How We Operate” is something rather special. This is a warm pop record that drifts along like part Wilco, part Beth Orton, and part David Gray. But all of this familiarly still exists in that unique framework that Gomez began fashioning years ago. There is not much to criticize here, unless you believe that guilty pleasures in music are for the weak of heart. This is a summer record both impeccably produced and artfully composed. I guess we are all growing up and as they croon gloriously and insightfully on “Charley Patton Songs,” the band singals that they are they are “old enough to know how .. and young enough to still try.”

9 out 10

Order It Now From Amazon