VETIVER – Tight Knit (2009)

Vetiver - Tight Knit Despite collaborating frequently with revered freak-folk beard shaman Devendra Banhart, Vetiver have, unfortunately, gone largely unnoticed in their career so far. Here’s hoping that’ll change with Tight Knit, their third album and first for indie heavyweight label Sub Pop. As far as labels go, Sub Pop makes more sense than you’d think – currently on the roster are Iron and Wine, as well as folk newcomers Fleet Foxes; in the midst of such high-profile company, Vetiver will fit right in.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “why all this talk about labels?” Well, I’m going to do some ruminating on the subject, so please be patient. Ready? Okay, good…now, whenever a band switches from a smaller label to a bigger one (in this case, from FatCat to Sub Pop), there is an incredible temptation from someone who has been following the band from the beginning (in this case, me) to examine the new recording with an unusually high degree of scrutiny, and to ascribe any changes in the band’s sound or artistic direction, no matter how minute, to the change in labels. The end results of this scrutiny can vary greatly, from feelings of negligibility (The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife being released by Capitol Records is inconsequential) to outrage (Roadrunner single-handedly ruined Opeth, presumably forever).

Granted, the change from FatCat to Sub Pop is much smaller than from Kill Rock Stars to Capitol, so in this case, the change barely registers in the listener’s brain at all. Still, it’s a hard thing to ignore, and I bring it up because near the end of Tight Knit are a pair of songs that made me raise my eyebrows – the unusually upbeat More of This and the unusually jazzy Another Reason To Go. They provoked this reaction from me not because they were bad, but rather, because they were different. Does it really matter that Vetiver, instead of dependably giving us another fine folk/alt-country album, give us instead another fine folk/alt-country album with these two songs? I think not.

I’m sorry. I got lost somewhere in there. For anyone still reading this, yes, I did enjoy Tight Knit – I actually prefer it over M. Ward’s Hold Time, and would recommend it as such. *sigh* – was that really that hard?

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