The Cave Singers

I’ve been reading The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald for graduate school this week. Sebald’s writing is descriptive and purposeful, his words gently reconstructing a world that exists only in memory. Like all great artists, Sebald trusts his audience, understanding that the reader has the power to interpret, the ability to perceive what lies behind the words on the page. Sebald, who died in a tragic car crash at the height of his prowess in 2001, also has the unique capacity to convey intimacy, as is illustrated in the following quote, “Doubtless we should have driven on without accomplishing a thing, if we had not summoned up the nerve, exchanging one of those swift glances, to at least take a look at the garden.” One of those swift glances. We’ve all experienced that type of intimacy. The kind where words are unnecessary, and a fleeting glance is all that is needed.

The Fleet Foxes, like Sebald, have that wonderful ability to convey intimacy through their art. This was abundantly clear this past Wednesday night as the boys from Seattle lit up the sold-out 3,000 seat United Palace Theater with one and a half hours of beautiful music. Touring hot on the heels of the release of their brilliant sophomore album, Helplessness Blues, Robin Pecknold and gang gave it to us raw, and the respectfully silent audience (apart from the heckling about lowering the bass, which they seemingly took seriously as the sound noticeably improved) ate up every moment.

For me, the evening was about two things; memory and intimacy. Robin Pecknold’s songs speak to both. The following lyrics in Drops in the River reveal both themes,

You hesitate so my memory fades. I’ll hold to the first one,
I wouldn’t turn to another you say, on the long night we’ve made,
Let it go.

The opening lines of Montezuma also grapple with memory and intimacy,

So now I am older,
Than my mother and father,
When they had their daughter,
Now what does that say about me.
Oh how could I dream of,
Such a selfless and true love,
Could I wash my hands of,
Just lookin out for me?

I caught the Fleet Foxes’ July, 2008 show at the Bowery Ballroom, one month before I married my best friend and the love of my life. I can only speculate through listening to his word what Robin Pecknold was going through then and now, but by providing us with a glimpse he draws us closer and reminds us of the centrality of memory and intimacy to the human experience. They are, indeed, all that we have and share.

One final note about the Fleet Foxes’ performance. During the second half of the set, I believe it was right after Ragged Wood (correct me if I’m wrong), the audience erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation that lasted for over a minute. It was a special moment that will stay in my memory for years to come.

Setlist:

The Cascades
Grown Ocean
Drops In The River
Battery Kinzie
Bedouin Dress
Sim Sala Bim
Mykonos
Your Protector
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
White Winter Hymnal
Ragged Wood
Lorelai
Montezuma
He Doesn’t Know Why
The Shrine / An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Blue Ridge Mountains

Encore:
Oliver James
Helplessness Blues

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Cave Singers. Without going into much detail, they rock my world and I loved every moment of their opening set.

Video: Fleet Foxes – Montezuma/ He Doesn’t Know

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The Cave Singers recently released a video for “Black Leaf” from their latest release, No Witch. I’m on planes this week, hence the slow frequency of posting.

The Cave Singers – Swim Club

The Cave Singers – Black Leaf

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The Cave Singers – No Witch [Album Review]

by Woody on January 28, 2011

I’ve been a huge fan of the The Cave Singers over the years. There’s something almost hypnotic about their music, with Derek Fudescos melodic guitar riffs and Pete Quirck’s phantom vocals. Its ideal for driving north out of the city or for a snowed-in day like today.

Their third full-length, No Witch, is being released by Jagjaguwar on February 22. The rationale behind their switch from Matador to Jagjaguwar is a mystery, but I have a suspicion its related to their choice to bring in Randall Dunn (Black Mountain, Sunn O))), Boris) as producer this time around. Jagjaguwar describes No Witch as “grander and more lush” than their first two albums, Invitation Songs and Welcome Joy. I tend to agree, but the verdict is out on whether the direction works for me. There was a sparseness that I loved about their previous work. Stripped down music is vulnerable, and vulnerable music is difficult to do well. The trend towards over-production is disconcerting for those of us who value subtlety in music.

Having said this, No Witch is growing on me as an album. I quickly fell for the second half of the album, starting with Haller Lake. Clever Creatures is a standout. I’m also starting to get into some of the new elements, like the gospel chorus on Haystacks and the Indian classical vibe on Outer Realms.

As is often the case, the definitive moment will be seeing this material live. Speaking of which, they’ve just announced a series of tour dates this spring.

The Cave Singers – Swim Club

Feb 12   Olympia, WA                    The Northern The Northern
Feb 22   Seattle                                 Easy Street Records (Queen Anne)
Mar 10  San Francisco                  Great American Music Hall
Mar 12  Visalia, CA                         The Cellar Door
Mar 13  Los Angeles                       Autry
Mar 14  San Diego                           Casbah
Mar 20  San Francisco                  Great American Music Hall
Mar 21  Birmingham                      Bottletree Cafe
Mar 23  Atlanta                                The Earl Restaurant and Bar
Mar 30  Washington DC                The Red
Mar 31  New York City                  Music Hall of Williamsburg
Apr 4     Buffalo                                 The Mohawk Place
Apr 5     Toronto, Canada             The Drake Hotel
Apr 7     Chicago                               Lincoln Hall
Apr 8     Bloomington, IN             Russian Recording

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The Cave Singers’ Swim Club [new mp3]

by oz on December 3, 2010

The Cave Singers are set to release a new album, No Witch, on February 22nd.  They claim that the album is grander and more lush than previous efforts. And more rocking, with the help of producer Randall Dunn (Black Mountain). The band offered “Swim Club” as a free download and taste of what to expect from their 2011 release.

The Cave Singers – Swim Club

No Witch tracklist:
Gifts and the Raft
Swim Club
Black Leaf
Falls
Outer Realms
Haller Lake
All Land Crabs and Divinity Ghosts
Clever Creatures
Haystacks
Distant Sures
Faze Wave

No Prosecution If We Bail

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The Cave Singers – Welcome Joy [Album Review]

August 25, 2009

The Cave Singers ’07 debut, Invitation Songs, was a solid one indeed. Pete Quirk’s raspy vocals over acoustic guitars and simple percussion was easy to enjoy, but I felt that the album was the precursor to something better. It seemed to lack that sticky element that would give the album lasting quality – that attribute […]

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