Review Summary: Is it just enough to be used? No, no, use me well."It can be kind of hard to get their attentions with a band many of them have never heard of. Like, I know a lot of the bastards probably believe they've heard better stuff anyway."
"Well, you love the album, though, right?"
"Than make up something that will grab their attentions by force, even if you have to exaggerate."
"Alright, fine. Caves is Wilco on fire with emotional intensity of Bon Iver. That's my summary. I bet that will at least get Sowing to jam it."
Above is an edited conversation with a friend that led to this article's inception. As indicated, The Sky Life and their 2012 album Caves
is hard to accurately and fairly describe – they have their own particular niche-y sound. It's some parts folk-y indie pop, and given the Wilco tag, some parts alt-country as well, but most important, it hold its own identity within the crowd of its neighbors. Some of this individualism comes in how the short nine-song album is structured; another part is how singer Justin Carter sounds vocally. The songwriting style here is peculiar: there's certainly a loose verse-chorus format, but the way the songs sound together within their placing of the track listing makes Caves
a complete album through and through, lulling and escalating when it should.
But that's not to say that Caves
doesn't have comparisons to others it can be drawn to, or rather, the feelings The Sky Life's sound evokes. It shares a particular quality with such mainstream, cult classics as Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago
and Mimicking Birds eponymous self-titled debut where you want to play it over and over again - an emotional connection is easily formed, and a craving for it begins. Given the homage of the two prior albums, Caves
' success revolves around the the intense impact of its vocal melodies, mainly delivered from lead voice Carter, but also from his two other band mates on backup mics as well, drummer Josh Stevens and bass-keyboardist Bobby Kuhl.
Carter tells desolate, relatable anecdotes with an edge of hope on the horizon: relationships, depression, goddamn reality as we know it. The strength of second track “Stop Thinking” bares profound consideration. The triple-vocal attack of the singers comes during an acoustically-strummed, surging chorus that calls for individuals to be just that, individuals: “Now is all we have, spend it with you love, in an ocean of your thoughts, and not their ideas for you.” The sentiments ring strong and without pretense, emotive and resonate. “Son to the Seed” is another highlight cradled by dissonant guitars, electric, and drumming with a certain drunken edge. Its short instrumental bridge erupts into a unified crescendo of all the singers and pounding instruments, climatic and sublime in the moment's context.
is a surprise given its diamond-in-the-rough status, true, but also in the fact The Sky Life never sounded like this on their two previous albums. 2008's Dimes & Discourses
and 2010's Roots and Wings
both contained digitalized drumming and auto-tuned vocals, a stark contrast to the stripped-down and honest product presented here. And certainly for the better. Stranger yet, their record label, Deep Elm Records, is renowned for its post-rock roster of bands, not its more traditional drum-bass-guitar bands. The question has to be asked: Who dropped the ball in the coverage for this one? Masters of using empty space and crescendos to their advantage for a killer songwriting combo are rare and fleeting; The Sky Life's Cave
is a heartfelt statement that should be remembered and recognized.