With her 2011 debut Charlatans at the Garden Gate, Nashville singer/songwriter Tristen established herself as an articulate and clear-voiced purveyor of folk-minded, acoustic pop songs with gentle strains of Americana. Her strong sense of melody helped her music skew more toward an indie pop angle rather than get too mired in rootsy old-timeyness, and on 2013's Caves, she throws any remaining twang out the door, delivering an eloquently rendered synth-driven album. Jumping ship on acoustic music may have been a reaction against the traditional Nashville establishment, but the stylistic turn suits her music well. The brazen opener "No One's Gonna Know" is a diamond-sharp pop song filled with soaring hooks, and tracks like "Gold Star" and "House of War" contain the kind of lovely, pure melodies that thrive in the dreamy, electronic-based production. For the most part, the 11 songs on Caves are generally more midtempo lullabies than straight-up dance tracks, filled with complexity and effervescing with Tristen's independent spirit. Weaving throughout the album is her clean, effortless voice, which can coo, vamp, and soar, but generally takes a more subtle tack, dancing easily around the well-written lyrics and lush but not overbearing production. Caves may not have been the follow-up fans expected of her, but as Tristen's artistry continues to evolve, future left turns such as this will be welcome.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger