Seattle’s The Cave Singers came out of the darkness around the same time Fleet Foxes did. But while the Foxes are all angelic harmony and shimmering guitars, The Cave Singers offer a grittier, bluesy take on indie-folk; if the Fleet Foxes serenade you from the town square, The Cave Singers stomp and clap on the back porch with vocalist Pete Quirk mixing a gruff, unschooled, gospel holler to the mix.
The band’s early albums on Matador Records sound a bit like they were … well, recorded in a cave — Quirk’s voice submerged in swampy guitar licks and contemplative arpeggios. Naomi, their debut for the label Jagjaguwar released this year, shows the Singers coming up for air, letting their arrangements breathe and perhaps relying more than usual on slick studio trickery, but never to a fault — understandable given the record was produced by big-time producer Phil Elk (Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Modest Mouse).
According to the album press release, Naomi was inspired by “songs of addiction, car ownership, fireworks, tree houses, moving to New Mexico and God.” The record opens with “Canopy,” taking a strutting R&B groove and topping it off with a bouncing Afro-pop bridge. “It’s a Crime” features a Searchers-esque garage-rock guitar riff, erupting into a primal, Patti Smith-inspired coda.
Quirk speaks of Naomi being a significant break from their first three albums. And Naomi does shake up The Cave Singers formula a bit, but not significantly. Overall the band is continuing on the path they’ve been on for a while now: evolving from minimalist mood-folksters to full-fledged rockers. And while they haven’t worked out all their rough spots just yet (for better or worse), it’s a fun journey to travel with them.
The Cave Singers play with Bleeding Rainbow 8 pm Monday, April 29, at Cozmic; $10. — William Kennedy