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Welcome Joy

For sophomore set Welcome Joy, I wondered if Seattle trio the Cave Singers’d stick with the electro-folk of 2007’s Invitation Songs. Turns out they need the beeps and warbles like Kojak needs aftershave. Some lady said that on a ’70s sitcom. What it means I still have no idea.

But it fits, actually, because the Cave Singers embrace mystery and hardly bother conforming to the letter of the New Weird America (look it up online, if you wish). They look like a YouTube put-on, with their Tecate tallboys and Kaczynski-police-sketch mufti, but they play and sing straight. (I said straight singing, not straightforward lyrics).

The music they keep simple, since the boys know what induces a mild trance. The lyrics begin with quiet, potent freedom ("Come on, baby, let's take a ride," softly, as if on Sunday morning) and progress rapidly to "My car is a stone that Jimmy weighs." Or, okay, maybe the car is a stone that "gently waves."

Makes no sense either way, you say? You're right. But singer Peter Quirk understands what Clarence "Tom" Ashley understood 80 years ago, recording "The Coo Coo Bird": if you don't explain why it's important to "see Willie as he goes on," let alone who Willie is, people will spin you again to figure it out. That or just savor its refusal to resolve.

Welcome Joy brings you storm, lightning, woods, a station in a skyline, one "Beach House" and some "Townships." Through all its vivid spaces, people start slowly to come together. They don't cry foul at the mystery. They work through it to touch. That's a message we need every day of every year - maybe this country, these people, a little more urgently than baseline. But anyone can crumple a message. The Cave Singers bind it to solid art.

Album title: Welcome Joy (2009)
Artist: the Cave Singers
Label: Matador
Songs: (1) Summer Light (2) Leap (3) At the Cut (4) Shrine (5) Hen of the Woods (6) Beach House (7) VV (8) I Don't Mind (9) Townships (10) Bramble

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