Release Date: Feb 19, 2016
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Opening with the deep rattling lope of "That's Why" and then segueing into the bright and lovelorn Celtic flavors of "Lost in the Tide," the Cave Singers' fifth album, 2016's Banshee, finds the group stretching their boundaries on all sides, adding a greater electric force to the performances while deepening the dynamics of their indie-folk side. Lead vocalist and guitarist Pete Quirk has the instincts and attitude of a rocker, but he also knows how to work with the dynamics of his bandmates, and he's keenly aware of the mood as well as the volume of the music, while guitarist Derek Fudesco, bassist Morgan Henderson, and drummer Marty Lund frequently demonstrate how much evocative power can be generated by four people on these sessions. Producer and engineer Randall Dunn is a valuable collaborator on Banshee, giving the music a sound that's rich and spacious but free of clutter, and the production well suits the dynamics of these songs.
The Cave Singers no longer sound like buskers picked up off the streets of Seattle, but they haven’t totally abandoned the stomp-and-clap rhythms that defined their 2007 debut, Invitation Songs, and carried all the way through 2011’s No Witch. The group seemed poised to shed their shaggy campfire aesthetic entirely with 2013’s Naomi, “goin’ electric” a la Dylan and adding former Blood Brothers bassist Morgan Henderson for some extra punch. Well, punch isn’t quite the right word, because one of the only memorable qualities about Naomi is how wimpy it sounds beneath all that crackling electricity.
Since emerging from the ashes of Pretty Girls Make Graves the best part of a decade ago, the Cave Singers have delivered four albums which occasionally promise great things, but too often fail to fully convince. The closest they came was on the vibrant debut set Invitation Songs (2007), which showcased an inventiveness which has been lacking ever since. Sadly, it’s not been recovered on Banshee – an album with a few moments of sweetness, but which ultimately feels like a pleasant collection of background music.