BY KELLY DEARMORE
For those out there who have had their rays of musical hate scoped directly at vest-wearing banjo pickers and harmonizing kick-drummers, it might be getting time to give indie bands that employ an overt amount of Afro-pop into their sound some consideration for future hating. Ultimately, for Seattle’s The Cave Singers, that’s for another time, since Naomi, the group’s solid, if unspectacular, fourth LP implements Afro-tastic tones and rhythms, but only to a point as they avoid tripping into a patronizing pop-pit. It’s not as though they’ve musically hidden that Graceland is likely in their record collections in the past, so such tinkering isn’t a shock as much as it’s a minor distraction.
At this stage in the band’s life, and to be certain, it’s fair to put the punk-rock past of Peter Quirk, Derek Fudesco, Marty Lund, Morgan Henderson behind them when speaking of this aspect of their respective artistic lives. As a collective, this foursome clearly knows their way around the stage and studio without having to be so damn angry.
As with 2011’s No Witch, the band spreads their wings a bit sonically, and as a result, the record plays like a mixed-bag that indeed manages to pay-off more often than it comes up empty. The straight-ahead American folk-rocking “Easy Way” and the serenely starlit ballad “Evergreens” are complimentary partners and pieces of this album’s puzzle that fit rather snug. But trying to fit the pieces of almost-Afro tunes “No Tomorrows,” “Shine” and “Canopy” into the same puzzle and the record fails to make sense as a sonic whole. Predictably, and admirably, there isn’t a truly skip-worthy song among the bunch, but the mix of styles disconcerts more than it coheres.
Certainly, there’s a fine line in-between a record bearing cohesion and every song being a clone of the tune before it, but Naomi suffers, even if slightly so, from multiple personalities.