The Cave Singers

Invitation Songs

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A quick glance at the pedigrees of the Cave Singers' members wouldn't suggest that they had any folky leanings. Pete Quirk sang with the post-punk-inspired Hint Hint, Marty Lund played with the similarly angular Cobra High, and Derek Fudesco came from the mighty Pretty Girls Make Graves -- all layered, intense, and above all, electric bands. So, it comes as a very pleasant surprise that the trio strips down and unplugs as convincingly as they do on Invitation Songs. The Cave Singers' music is largely acoustic and clearly inspired by the timeless sounds of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly (the baleful "New Monuments" is set "in the pines"), but -- possibly because the band is so steeped in indie rock -- it never feels hidebound to re-creating traditional sounds. Quirk's reedy, nasally voice sounds far more comfortable in the Cave Singers' rustic settings than it did in Hint Hint, and his worn-in vocals are a big part of what makes Invitation Songs' straddling of indie and classic American music so effortless. He and the rest of the band sound just as comfortable on the sweetly rousing acoustic rock of "Elephant Clouds" as they do on "Called," which, with its whip-cracking percussion, slow, insistent tempo, and aching melody, sounds directly descended from a decades, if not centuries, old work song. The Cave Singers are equally comfortable with washboards -- which turn "Dancing on Our Graves" into a darkly joyful jamboree -- and keyboards, which are paired with gentle but driven acoustic picking on "Helen." However, the band's most affecting moments are the simplest and subtlest: "Royal Lawns" and "Seeds of Night" use vivid imagery ("bright flowers behind your billboards") and pastoral melodies to create quiet, unassuming yet undeniable moments of life-affirming beauty. Invitation Songs is a welcome, and welcoming, debut.

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