Making a name for yourself in the New York City indie scene isn’t easy ‒ a fact each member of Caveman probably knows fairly well. Yet the Brooklyn quintet has managed to distinguish itself from the hordes of indie rockers, playing recently at SXSW and making some noise in the music blogosphere after a successful 2011 effort, Coco Beware. It isn’t hard to see why Caveman has garnered some love. Their music is appropriately artsy and refined, yet never seems pretentious. It’s grim and deep at times, but never too dramatic. On their latest record, Caveman develops their music further. Almost all of the tracks are soaked in synth and rely on heavy drums to get their point across. All of this makes for a distinctly ‘80s vibe, and it comes as no surprise that frontman Matthew Iwanusa admits to listening to some Tears for Fears during the recording of this album.
At the start of the album, “In the City” is an immediate standout, serving as an impressive exercise in moderation. Much of the press preceding this album discussed the band’s desire to try some crazy sounds and work off the confidence they gained after their much-loved debut. “In the City” really doesn’t have any of that, though, and that’s fine. The song is a perfect vehicle for Iwanusa’s clear, aching voice and the production is stunning. The rest of the album’s top half continues to deal in a mixture of both light and dark, laying in some heavy emotions that are presented with the perfect combination of effects and distorted guitar. While perfectly capable through five songs, the album takes a more intriguing turn at “Over My Head.” Somewhat reminiscent of earlier, quieter Grizzly Bear, the song brings the album to an ethereal, breathy place that it something of sweet spot for these guys’ skill sets. Iwanusa continues to anchor the songs with his unapologetically somber tone. “Ankles” is arguably the most straightforward pop song on the album and features a flurry of melodies that are all somehow harnessed to make a careful, heart-rending song. It becomes a perfect encapsulation of the album itself ‒ an album that takes its time and showcases some very affecting moments.
It can take you a little while to get past the moodiness of this record at first; before the album has time to grow on you, Caveman can almost be perceived as stiff or suffocating. But there’s hope on this album ‒ it may not be direct or obvious, but there are quiet victories to be found in the margins of these songs, and that makes the whole experience worthwhile.
MP3: Caveman “Ankles”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl