Now Hear This 2004

by PopMatters Staff

1 January 2004

NOW HEAR THIS 2004   Can’t figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters’ music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.
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:: Best Tribute to Deafening Quietude

Vetiver’s 2004 eponymous album swims messily through a handful of languages, with cadres of vocalists singing in harmonious mishmash that could easily have erupted from a cosmopolitan pub near last call. But instead, it arises from the Bay Area’s urbane Appalachial folk commune that’s home to Vetiver’s Andy Cabic and indie darling Devendra Banhart; along with hotshot producer Thom Monahan (of The Pernice Brothers), they create warbling, dreamy, roundabout melodies that scatter beautifully, like a plucked dandelion at the moment its seeds hit wind. But though Cabic gets by with a little help from his friends, Vetiver is his proud and illustrious brainchild. And what progeny it is. Simultaneously lazy and exhilarating, the windy strings and pattering guitars are rendered fierce with burly yet dear production that sounds as if the songs are being written inside your own head. The forceful hush of “On a Nerve”—with cymbals that rise like choking smoke, guitars that chant, cellos that seem to weep—is evidence that the lines between quiet and loud are not so easily drawn; in fact, one of the loudest presences on this album is a meaty silence. That, and Cabic’s tender whisper-sing: sweet nothings that say as much in their delivery as they do in their content, even when joined by his chorus. Whether you can decipher what he’s saying (often you can) or not (sometimes you can’t) is of little importance. What matters is that Vetiver beckons you to lean in close and listen, and submit rapturously to intimate sounds that speak a secret language, meant only for you.

— Devon Powers


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