Ah, I've said it before and I'll say it again, EP's are just the best. They are one night stands that go well and end well. They are the chance meal at a gamble of a restaurant choice that is perfectly delicious. Its like finding a title you've been wanting for ages and quit looking for in a used bookstore. Listening to a good EP (one that is an entity to itself, not a maxi-single with 3 lame variations of a song you tire of after the second listen, and are rendered comatose by the "karaoke version"), by someone you like is a little victory.
This very morning, as the sun shook the sleep from his eyes over this hapless office park, and my computer peppered me with error messages about the project file I was attempting to open in vain, I opened my Windows Media Player with the resplendent new Between EP from Vetiver, a San Fransisco self-appelated "chamber-folk"collective headed by Andy Cabic's deft strumming and calming voice, known to at time to have rallied the likes of indie hip kids Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. Last year, in the midst of having Devendra Banhart open my third eye with his sexy elfin folk rock, I discovered the first Vetiver album by association and was totally knocked out by it. Its hazy lazy drift plows through you like a model train, boring a hole straight to your heart and soul with you just staring at it, musing what a sweet little thing it is.
The best comparative reference is a useless one, in that Vetiver's sound is like The Grateful Dead's American Beauty album, one so often cited it on the Road Atlas. But it has that loping jaunty country folk lilt without trying to be cowboys or outlaws or anything. They are sweet transcendent love songs that land on you like butterflies. This EP is more of the same, offering some live configuration from folk house concerts and some studio business. It opens with the galactic folk of "Been So Long" a song so sweet I know I've heard it before, like its strumming an eternal string. His voice floats on a wave of acoustic guitars in an atmosphere of either keyboards or echoed flute that just sends me. The cover of Fleetwood Mac's Quaalude-moment from Tusk "Save Me A Place" is equally haunting, where it captures the spirit of the original with none of the baggage.
"Busted (Brokedown Version)" is where the Dead comparisons are cemented, or perhaps the Byrds, Sweethearts of the Rodeo - era, but this is no hippie cover band excursion. They are somehow more dead than the Dead on this short number, where the words come echoing in on a warm breeze. The highlight of the thing comes when the warmth and blood of Andy's wavering voice is felt on the live "Maureen" a beatific ballad of the likes I always wanted Gram Parsons to do. The EP closes with a soaring radio appearance "Belles" where the droning interplay of strings and nylon guitars and alpha waves and sunshine peaking over the hazy California hills meets in a recording room of WMBR, the student station at MIT, and totally makes me levitate. This thing is a powerful little animal, and I am expecting that the forthcoming album is going to be the one that finally pushes me over into astral projection. If its making me this gushy and optimistic about the future while I'm at the office at 6:45 AM, then you know its good.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com