Vetiver is a 15-year-old folk band that hails from San Francisco. Headed by songwriter and lead vocalist Andy Cabic, the band’s music mirrors the essential grass oil it’s named after, in that both have undeniably calming effects and popularity amongst earthy, bohemian social circles.
Using sparse, unostentatious instrumentals, Vetiver’s songs are heady without being overwhelming, a charmingly woodsy experience that whisks listeners away to a state of soothing comfort. A frequent touring partner of artists like Fleet Foxes and Devendra Banhart, its music quietly hums with meditative, steady melodies. Although songs like “Rolling Sea” feature solemn lyrics such as “Nothing escapes the rolling sea / Not the past nor you or me,” Cabic performs these lines with empathetic dignity. It becomes a song about accepting the universality of life and death, rather than a depressing dirge about the bleak end. Vetiver creates music that pacifies listeners even as they acknowledge the conflicts and struggles all people face.
Once, in an interview, Aquarium Drunkard asked Cabic for the secret to his sublime musical style. Cabic simply responded, “It comes down to my voice. I can really only sing the way I sing. I’m not going to try to write songs where I put my voice in a context where I’m not being true to myself or singing in a way that isn’t sustainable live or over the course of my life.” The singer-songwriter sticks with what is intuitive to him, constructing songs whose peacefulness is natural and never overdone. Fitting with the band’s acceptance of connectivity to others, the proceeds from Vetiver’s show this Friday will go towards Unity Productions Foundation, a nonprofit fighting Islamophobia and increasing interfaith understanding through education.
At 8:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 18, at Swedish American Hall. $15; swedishamericanhall.com
He’s a folk rock musician, he’s an electronic producer, and he has one of those Twitter accounts that contains mysterious statements like “and so it begins” or “Majesty.” RY X is whoever he sees fit to be, and with his debut solo album, Dawn, he captures the perplexing nuances of his strange, private realm.
It’s fitting that one of the better known songs from Dawn is “Howling.” It encapsulates all the hallmarks of the singer’s work — vibrant figurative language, a magnetic voice that yearns and grieves, and rumbling guitar that rises and falls like rhythmic waves. “Howling” also exemplifies RY X’s habit of using cryptic lyrics, as when he eerily sings, “Hot nights coming / Keep the car running / Lavender fingers / Swallow my pollen” in the opening lines. His songwriting doesn’t lend itself to obvious interpretation, but tempestuous instrumentals and roaring vocals adds a pensive, emotional touch to songs rife with intangible lyrics.
Separate from his solo project Dawn, RY X experiments with electronic music production. Chillwave duo ODESZA recently featured him on their song “Corners of the Earth,” a serene lullaby about being swept away by love. Last year, Rihanna requested that he remix her single “Love On The Brain.” His version is haunting, with Rihanna’s bittersweet, Amy Winehouse-esque ballad transformed into a delicate and haunting track with a nearly amorphous structure.
These electronic pursuits may seem counterintuitive for an artist whose debut project is pure indie-folk, but RY X has never wanted to put constraints on his creative efforts. Speaking with The Independent about his global musical influences, the singer says, “As a real artist you’re not bound by culture or nationality. … Whatever you’re referencing has a lineage, but as an artist you don’t want to be judged on what the style is, you want to be judged on how it makes you feel, what the reaction is. It’s easy to say it’s appropriating, but there’s so much richness in music and culture around the world, why would you limit yourself as an artist?” RY X aspires to make music that represents him and all his intricacies, and if that means transcending genre conventions, then so be it.
At 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Lodge, Regency Center. $25; theregencyballroom.com
Pickwick’s sophomore album Lovejoys has been four years in the making, but despite this lengthy hiatus, the development process for its latest release has been action packed. First, disagreements about the band’s musical vision led to the departure of producer and business manager Kory Kruckenberg. Consequetly, the band abandoned roughly 40 songs it had written for the album and decided to start production from scratch. Pickwick hired a new producer, Erik Blood, and since then, it has pivoted in a different, funk-infused direction.
“I tried a new writing style,” frontman Galen Disston says in an interview with east of 8th. “It was an exploration of my subconscious, which exposed some of my greatest fears. It was a mythical place that I’m forever searching.” Suffice to say, Pickwick succeeded in making its most recent project a divergence from its debut album, Can’t Talk Medicine.
In both its instrumentality and lyrics, Lovejoys is anything but a formulaic duplication of the band’s first record. The rumbling basslines and steady drumming so characteristic of Can’t Talk Medicine have been replaced by guitar notes that ripple and stretch across songs. Other additions include digitally enhanced atmospheric noises, and vocals that meander through ambient instrumentals with chilled-out ease. Lyrics such as “Thought it was you / Now I don’t know what to do” and “Even I had left you by the end / You left me, too” correspond with Disston’s unaffected and nearly apathetic vocals, yet hint at the unspoken emotional pain lingering just beneath Lovejoy’s sleek exterior. Integrating modern synth influences with lyrics of repressed sentimentality, Pickwick’s second album delves into complicated subjects like terminated relationships while maintaining a polished, cool sound overall.
With Prism Tats at 9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 17, at The Chapel. $15-$17; thechaeplsf.com