Like an England early goal, a January love affair with an album almost certainly spells the inevitable slump into obscurity and defeat when it comes to the final whistle at the end of the year. Seattle's Cave Singers provided me with my first job of the year and though we all look set for a steady economic decline and general misery in the coming 12 months Invitation Songs has taken up the slack with its generous supply of much needed warmth this winter and only time will tell if it's still emitting this warmth come the end of play but I sincerely hope it is.
Cutting their teeth on a post-punk background and name-checking such bands as The Replacements, The Pixies and Fleetwood Mac as their influences this 3 piece has shocked everybody including themselves by creating what can only be described as a folk album. They never listen to folk music, they never intended to make folk music and until recently the guitarist had never even picked up his instrument. But all this can be seen to contribute to the honesty of this music and in this honesty comes its warmth, charm and power.
The music is uncomplicated with gentle guitar melodies being padded out with brushed and slapped drum beats and singer Pete Quirk's nasal drawl provides this music with the abrasion that is often missing from similar artists. Effortless stompers like opener Seeds Of Night (mp3) and Dancing On Our Graves recall Civil War marches with their relentless rhythm, while Helen is a tortured tale of lost love that swells slowly but then fades to nothing. This is the power of these songs as they hold in their repertoire the latent ability to freeze you with a sparse chill or scoop you up and cary you away on a thermal sky rocket, and they do all this without you knowing. This album makes no mission statements so it's effects are not easily spotted but deeply felt. This is very physical music and conjures up a whole host of landscapes around you as it plays. Called swirls around in a barely visible darkness with haunting cries looming out at you while Royal Lawns expands into cavernous halls that echo its melancholy. Elephant Clouds is the backbone of this record and is a curious affair indeed. It bears a strange resemblance to Richard Marx's Hazard and is still a corker. It tip-toes along on what is by now a trade mark nervous tension but then picks up into a galloping torrent of emotionally soaring awesomeness, but as is also a trademark it never fully puts out and leaves you breathless and wanting more.
The aptly named Invitation Songs has welcomed me into this musical year. It is an album dripping with mystery, its melodies are ghostly and empty and yet can turn with dazzling ease into foot-stomping rousers or delicate heart-warmers. Its humility will make it a slow burner but it has the power to seep into every corner of your life and once it does your life will be a better place.