Complete Strangers

Review of the new album from Vetiver 'Complete Strangers' by Vetiver.

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Vetiver is the main songwriting/recording vehicle for Andy Cabic, and has been since 2003. On March 24th, he returns with Complete Strangers, his 6th record, the first released on Easy Sound. While the three year gap since 2011’s Errant Charm is the longest he has gone without releasing a new album, Cabic’s writing strengths remain intact. The majority of the record plays like a Vetiver record should: there may not be any jarring stylistic changes, but Strangers holds its own among Cabic’s best songwriting entries.

Complete Strangers opens with “Stranger Still”, a lengthy (7 minutes!) journey into syncopated electronic/real percussion, and multiple layers of synthesizers. It’s hypnotic in a way that Vetiver has never fully explored, with understated references to New York disco (see: the sax solo towards the end) or even the Neue Deutsche Welle movement. On his website, Cabic describes the song as “an anthem for insomniacs, illuminating the hours when the world exceeds our grasp”. Cabic’s nighttime imagines what exists “out in the real world”, and finds it full of “close calls and closing doors”.

On most other songs, Vetiver is his usual reliable self. “Shadows Lane” and “Time Flies” wear their bossanova/MPB influence with pride. “From Now On” is a gorgeous journey through the breeziest of 70s gold, swells and major/minor 7 chords intact. “Current Carry” takes this approach a step further, the most AM-indebted song of the record. It also features pedal steel from likeminded gun-for-hire Dave Scher, and an impossibly funky bass line from an unknown performer, lifting the song to its gentle conclusion. Towards the end of the record, Cabic does manage to deliver one big surprise with “Loose Ends”. It’s the most upbeat song on Strangers, a perfectly crafted nod to post-Byrds/pre-Cars power pop. Even his lyrics fit the scene of the day: “you got the world to want you, baby that’s hard to do”

As a Vetiver record, Complete Strangers is immediately recognizable, but also manages to bring some of his previously understated elements to the surface (namely, the electronic elements that appear throughout each song to varying degrees). Cabic’s recent musings on his new record sum up Strangers perfectly: “I’m still figuring the album out. It feels like someone I’ve just met yet known for a long time.”

Evan McDowell

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