Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Caveman capture the sound of the city on their sophomore album. And rather than releasing material in the same vein as their 2011 debut, CoCo Beware, their new self-titled album is both more refined and more expansive. Combined together, the harmonies and synths provide a delicate look at how it feels to roam the streets of the metropolis when all is quiet in your mind…because all man has made leaves you in awe.
Since forming in 2010, the New York five-piece Caveman have been slowly garnering attention for their loose, deceptively expansive indie-folk rock. Their music carries both a professional air and world-weary rasp, an impression that’s borne out of the group’s credentials, and overlapping lives, as journeyman veterans of NYC’s massive music scene for the better part a decade. The genesis for Caveman was catalyzed by the almost synchronized dissolutions of its member’s former bands, remembered now only with ghostly MySpace portals: The Subjects (lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Matthew Iwanusa and guitarist Jimmy “Cobra” Carbonetti), White Clam (keyboardist Sam Hopkins), The End of the World (drummer Stefan Marolachakis), and Elefant (bassist Jeff Berrall).
New York indie quintet Caveman's 2011 debut Coco Beware was a softly psyched-out affair of neon-flecked atmospheres and '70s-inspired rock tracks. The slow-burning album was largely slept on, but not overlooked, and the band gained a following without the typical rush of press coverage or hype. On their self-titled second album, the soft lens on watery psych textures is still in place, but the pace and volume of the songs get toned down for a much more relaxed, reflective ride.
Though it’s feasible to suggest that Caveman singer Matthew Iwanusa sounds like the lovechild of James Mercer (The Shins) and Band of Horses’ Ben Birdwell (maybe a stretch), I’d counter that that’s both impossible and somewhat irrelevant, given the collective musical differences between the bands. No, Iwanusa and by extension, Caveman, are a much more deliberate and clever group—able to draw from a wealth of influences and then quite tactfully, instill their own musical template for use and reuse. Here, on their second full-length release, the self-titled Caveman LP, the guys go to great lengths to maintain this “prototype”—to control their form—to replenish motifs until the listener is lulled into some kind of meditative reverie.
Brooklyn, NY's Caveman comprise five well-seasoned veterans of NYC's indie music scene. Over the past decade, the members have played in differing musical projects that, one by one, ended before Caveman formed as a cohesive unit. In 2011, they tentatively released their debut album, CoCo Beware, as a sort of experiment in progressive indie folk, which showcased both a wide array of influences and their clearly experienced musicianship.
Caveman lead singer/guitarist Matthew Iwanusa has a thing for cinematic music. For their second album, he wanted to sonically evoke a "big ship flying through the trees." Building on airy synths, expansive guitar riffs and Iwanusa's floating vocals, the Brooklyn-based five-piece embellish that spaced-out atmosphere with a tinge of melancholy. The album is the aural equivalent of FBI Special Agent Mulder's dreamy pout: mysterious and comfortingly familiar.
Is the self-titled sophomore album by Brooklyn indie rock quintet Caveman “expansive?” Why, yes, you could definitely argue that by listening to the group’s dense arrangements, but stop for moment and ask yourself, “What are they expanding from?” Do the song's intricate flourishes and subtle builds take the songs to new, exciting places or transform it in any way, and are they at least built on fundamental musical elements like melody and atmosphere? Well, Caveman certainly takes an honest crack at transforming these elements, but unfortunately, doesn't succeed in crafting neither strong melody nor atmosphere. Featuring twelve sloooooooow-burning tracks that build in the same way raising the volume knob counts as a build, Caveman attempts to create lush, pervasive environments through meticulously crafted pop soundscapes, but instead their hard work succeeds in creating the sonic equivalent of a loud, unenthusiastic yawn. Of course, this isn’t a very surprising move for the band.
Caveman allegedly gave birth to the songs that would become their sophomore record in a barn lit by Christmas lights in New Hampshire. “We’d all sit in this one room together and one by one we’d all go into the bathroom and record ourselves making the most psycho noises possible,” said frontman Matthew Iwanusa. Whatever the story’s truth, that psychosis landed nowhere near Caveman, whose palette is as familiar as the myth of finding one’s sound in New England isolation.
If the first Caveman track you ever heard was the pulsating 80s synth jam and perfect summer vibes of this year’s ‘In The City’, then you might think of them as a kind of spaced-out prog-pop band. If, though, you come from having heard their 2011 debut album CoCo Beware, a mix of folk-rock harmonies, beach pop (that was a thing, right?), intricate drumming and a bit of a lo-fi aesthetic then you might be forgiven for wondering what’s going on with sophomore record Caveman. And that’s the thing about Caveman – they’re kind of hard to get a handle on…at first.
On its self-titled sophomore album, New York City’s Caveman opens with a gentle, polished harmony called “Strange To Suffer,” and it hints at a bigger and more ambitious sound than any found on the band’s debut LP, CoCo Beware. This latest work is the group’s first recording with a label in place, as the debut was originally put out on its own imprint before getting picked up by Fat Possum. With the label in tow, the quintet entered into a more sufficient Brooklyn studio with bits and pieces of songs that were born from a band retreat to a New Hampshire barn attic belonging to guitarist Jimmy Carbonetti’s grandmother.