‘Caveman’ combines soft electronica, psychedelia


Releasing its self-titled sophomore album just yesterday, the band Caveman seems to have sprung up out of nowhere. A quartet from New York City, Caveman gained some notoriety in the indie music scene for its debut album, “CoCo Beware” (2011). That album, a much more tame exploration of the distinctive voice the group has carved out for itself on “Caveman,” imparted to its audience a sweet melancholy that many alternative bands today are striving for. With songs like “Old Friend” and “Thankful,” Caveman’s debut album was peppered with little vignettes of love found, lost and missed. Its distinctive sound, made unique by guitar riffs with strong reverb and blasts from an organ, has carried over well from its debut to its sophomore album. However, “Caveman” seems to have been influenced by contemporary indie bands in a way that “CoCo Beware” was not, while Caveman’s debut was something entirely fresh because it emerged from its incubator unsullied by the pervasive sounds of contemporary popular indie music.

That’s not to say that “Caveman” is not original. “Caveman” communicates a fully formed idea of how the band will move forward musically. A shift in tone for the band seems to have stemmed from confidence it has gained after being positively received by fans of alternative music and after touring extensively throughout the states and abroad. Having been featured on syndicated radio stations like KEXP Seattle and NPR, Caveman has been making the rounds on the indie music circuit, receiving a full orientation into alternative music stardom. The Caveman that we hear on its most recent album sounds like a subtle combination of more psychedelic bands like the Flaming Lips and meticulous melodic sticklers like Metronomy. Furthermore, it seems like Caveman is attempting to pay homage to the soft electronic sounds of iconic ‘80s bands, like The Cure, that served to construct the genre it is currently inhabiting. With strong synth and vulnerable lyrics, Caveman is channeling the softness that electronic and psychedelic music has to offer, an underrated and underexplored genre. Just like these bands, Caveman has created more than a name for itself — it has identified and cultivated a specific, unique sound. Listening to Caveman is easy and a delight. It’s not difficult to see why the band is slowly gaining momentum and expanding its fan base.

In fact, the only detractor from this easy listening is that is it easy for listeners to become complacent. That is to say, the album is not necessarily challenging or entirely engaging. Because it is so easy to listen to, the album can quickly become relegated to the role of background music. This role is not unimportant, but it is not the place for Caveman. Disguised as a soft crooner, Matthew Iwanusa — Caveman’s lead singer — is much more of a tortured composer than a source for background melodies. Iwanusa is navigating the landscape of indie music, desperately attempting to avoid the pit-falls that many indie startups quickly fall into, and he does this gracefully. There is no sophomore slump to be heard of here. Instead, Caveman is evolving into the band that it was seemingly always meant to be: a confident, sharp and pensive foil to the generic and oftentimes cheap alternative bands that are attempting to capitalize on indie music listener’s current obsession with obscurity and predictability. Notable tracks on the album include “In the City,” where Iwanusa displays his incredible vocal abilities, and “Pricey,” which has great bass and guitar. Overall, Caveman is a timid band that is just now fully forming into something truly spectacular. Listeners — buy a copy of “Caveman” as soon as possible. That way, you can claim you knew them before they were big.