Caveman – Caveman

Caveman – Caveman

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The self-titled sophomore album from New York City’s Caveman is pitch-perfect. While the reverb-y melodies are reminiscent of dream pop, the songs don’t succumb to getting too caught up building synth dreamscapes—perfect, as the album’s lyrics are just as strong as the instrumentation and shouldn’t be ignored. These are songs put together by master craftsmen; every one evokes exactly what it should, no more, no less.

The focus of the album seems to be how one locates the boundary between self and other people. On the first track, “Strange to Suffer,” vocalist Matthew Iwanusa focuses on how singular the experience of feeling pain is, even within a group of people. The song frames the album, returning in a slightly more upbeat way to “Track 12” on Caveman‘s finale. “In the City,” the first single, seeps into the other songs and establishes a setting: a crowded and overcast city, where it’s easy to feel lost and life is too transient (“It’s like the ones who only know/ it seems like the ones who always go”). The same isolation is echoed in the refrain of “Where’s the Time”: “Where’s the time to waste on someone else’s life?”

“Where’s the Time,” along with “Strange to Suffer,” “Shut You Down,” and “The Big,” highlight another of the band’s strengths: melancholy harmonies. When the staircase vocals kicked in on “Where’s the Time,” I was immediately reminded of some of the sadder songs from the Beach Boys’ catalog, particularly “Caroline No.” The harmonies have a classic mood about them, one that you don’t often hear on modern indie pop records, but they meld perfectly with the rest of the band’s layers of sound.

“Caveman” is an album of seeming contradictions that somehow fit together organically; it’s sad beach pop set far from the beach. Meaning aside, Caveman is just plain fun to listen to. “Strange to Suffer” opens quietly with drum sounds before breaking into a louder, nearly tribal sound. The mood changes direction suddenly with “In the City,” a song heavy on the synth that brings the listener from the preceding song (and the echo-y chamber of the singer’s mind) into the real world. Listening to the album song by song is to hear the band test the limits of their harmonies, simple but expertly-crafted music, and thoughtful lyrics in every possible direction, each one successful. Caveman is a band that’s gonna get huge.


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