REVIEW: Vetiver’s “Up on High” is Soothing Commiseration


Out on Mama Bird Recording Co. November 1st, Vetiver returns with Up On High, their first release since 2015’s Complete Strangers. Vetiver continues to mine familiar territory of dreamy California pop-tinged folk-rock to prime effect transporting the listener to a welcoming time and place beyond the daily strife of modern American life. Up On High features Vetiver longtime engineer and collaborator Thom Monahan working closely with Vetiver’s primary force of nature Andy Cabic. Live basic tacking with the same bandmates from previous releases including Gabe Noel (bass), Josh Adams (drums), Dan Lead (guitar), and Eric D. Johnson (organ/keys) along with Tim Ramsey (pedal steel), Jan Purat (violin), among others imbues the album with a welcoming openness.

“The Living End” opens the album with vocals over acoustic guitar – simple and inviting – as the rest of the band eases in with electric guitar, drums, and bass. Cabic confronts daily struggles with soothing commiseration, “Cold comfort is all you find, begging for a little peace of mind, keeping one step ahead of defeat, drifting like a notion down the street.” As the song builds, solace in pushing forward appears as the guiding mantra, “So far from where I am, chasing the living end, a taste for killing time, lost but know that I’m nearer now.”

The band cranks up the energy on “Swaying,” a ride down the California coast. “I’m here to find where answers end, the two of us, palm trees in the wind, swaying,” Cabic sings, over a churning rhythm. “Wanted, Never Asked” follows a similar feel embracing the full band rock with an laidback build reminiscent of War on Drugs. “What’s past is past, wanted, never asked,” Cabic sings as he comes to terms with decisions, regrets, and guilt. There’s a tinge of sadness, but a silver lining of hope shines throughout, “I don’t expect to get a second chance, to choose my words as I mean to, but I’d take it all back, I was wrong, now I know what you’ve been through.”

“Kind words gleam from the pages, like jewels of ages passed down to me,” begins “Filigree” – a near bossa nova daydream. “Up On High”, the title track, takes a decided different turn with stark acoustic guitar over spare snare drum while continuing to build on similar lyrical territory. Crisp notes simply plucked ring out on this wistful love song as Cabic sings, “you make it easy to not look down, keep my balance, stay spellbound…tomorrow waits just for you and I, up on high.” In this line Cabic unwittingly summarizes the listener’s experience on Up On High; it is easy to “stay spellbound” with the Vetiver’s work. Take a break from this craziness of everyday life and drift into Vetiver’s world; Up On High is as good a starting place as any for entry into their vast superb catalogue.



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