Vetiver: Tight Knit

Photo: Alissa Anderson

Tight Knit mines the tension between the desire for close community and Cabic's deep-in-the-bones need to keep moving, and the hazy world these songs inhabit is a compelling one.


Tight Knit

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2009-02-17
UK Release Date: Available as import

Vetiver frontman Andy Cabic has been warming up over the years, in a few different ways. For one, his band has been building towards its own, unique sound for a while now. Ever since their self-titled debut in 2004, which included the guitar work of Devendra Banhart, the band has been moving away from insular and mannered folk and toward a more accessible sound that meshes better with Cabic's sun-drenched '70s influences. And Vetiver has achieved an accessibility, has allowed the listeners closer, without making their music overly simple.

But as the music has slowly built its way toward us, Cabic has also warmed up lyrically and thematically. After the forlorn, though still excellent To Find Me Gone, Cabic gave us a surprisingly charming collection of covers on Things of the Past, and now his band has returned with Tight Knit, their third full-length of original material and first album for Sub Pop. And while laying his influences bare on a covers record may have tipped his hand as to what Tight Knit would sound like, there is little about this album that is predictable.

Most surprising here is how Cabic has flipped the coin emotionally on these songs. Rather than living in his solitary nature, the singer starts off this album by trying to bring people in, to gather around him those he finds important. "Rolling Sea", with a bouncy acoustic guitar line carrying the tune, sounds like a hazy, late-summer afternoon, with people gathered on a porch or in a field maybe drinking a beer and lazing away the day. But that image is just an ideal for Cabic, who is actually imploring friends to pause their busy schedules once in a while and just enjoy each other's company.

From there, we get "Sister" where Cabic is now trying to draw family close to him. Clearly there's been a rift, and sister has left home. In fact, the singer seems to be unsure about exactly what happened, but he is sure that time heals all wounds. The music behind him, a quiet shuffle of thumped bass notes and light percussion, belies his hope of reconciliation a little as it sounds like a whispered plea, like Cabic is on the phone just a room away from parents who don't know he's calling. But it is the hope we see in him that makes the song bittersweet.

"Everyday" has a similar hope, as in one that might go unfulfilled. This bouncy, sand-worn pop song has Cabic pining after a lover he's had to leave behind, perhaps to tour. "I always seem to make something out of nothing, but I can't make you appear," he sings late in the track. But he's not kicking the dirt in self-pity. Instead, in all of these early tracks, he is looking forward to all these reunions. Where on earlier Vetiver records, he might have pined over absences, here he is living in the optimism of reunions. It's a nice turn for Cabic, and it suits the band's brighter sound.

Tight Knit, though, is not all about coming together. The album instead mines a much more interesting tension between the desire for close community and the deep in the bones need to keep moving. Cabic's nomadic itch takes over halfway through the record, so while his hopes to unite with family and friends remain, he starts to come to grips with how his own nature sometimes makes that impossible.

The band makes this turn on the album work very nicely. Cabic himself is aware enough to keep his travel songs from being woeful. He's not looking for sympathy on "Through the Front Door" when he feels pulled out into the world once again. The wandering, pastoral wave of "Down From Above" finds Cabic at his most lost, at the beginning of this new journey, shrouded in a fog of tumbling guitars and far-off organs. And as Cabic travels, so does the band on Tight Knit. There's the tight sunny pop of "More of This", or the funked-out bass and horn section on "Another Reason to Go", or the ghostly stretching atmosphere of closer "At Forest Edge". The album seems to stretch out the further Cabic gets from the community he so clearly loves, and then tightens up when he gets closer to those people. In that way, Tight Knit beautifully navigates the tricky waters between loose feel and tight song craft.

And the album rarely misfires on its breezy, summer glide. "On the Other Side" might be the only exception, as it is the only moment where Cabic seems at least a little self-congratulatory about being outside the norm, which is, apparently, noisy and competitive and crowded and nonsensical. But it is a minor misstep on a very good album. Tight Knit's lush songs lets us another step closer to Cabic and company as they try to reconcile movement with permanence, and home not with a place but with a collection of people. And the closer we get to this band, the more they let us in, the better they seem to be.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.