If this year has taught me anything, it’s that you have to appreciate even the most menial of social interactions. Between six feet of social distancing, groups of under ten gatherings from less than four households, only seeing half of the people’s faces through a constant bombardment of masked fellow citizens, enough zoom calls for a lifetime worth of headaches and canceled holidays…wait where was I going with this? Oh right, the fact that Andrew Wieler and I (Lee Ferguson) get to share our beautiful opinions on some music despite not having the pleasure of each other’s personal acquaintance yet is what I’d call a 2020 silver lining. It’s also not the first time this has happened this year, so I guess what I’m saying is, in the most hippy-dippy intro in the history of bi polars, Andrew I fucking cherish these words we share on this vapid, heartless computer screen! Let’s discuss the art at hand, Cloud Caverns’ latest A Banner Year, how apropos.
Aww… Lee… that warms my very cold, dead heart.
And, it’s true, A Banner Year is very apropos, and for more than just the name of the record. Even though, according to the Bandcamp, this record was written in 2019, the atmosphere of heavy despair with the tinging of hope could be said to be the “official state of mind of 2020”.
As soon as I started the record, I was reminded of electronic acts like Abandoned Pools or Hellogoodbye, but better than Hellogoodbye. Nice, clean, lush tracks that combine electronic and folk elements with vocals being pushed into the forefront.
While most of the tracks are about personal tragedies of the main songwriter, Brandon Peterson, such as health scares, the cost of those scares (since the band is based out of Long Island, and the US health system is… let’s go with “underwhelming”), and the birth of his daughter, it’s easy to be able to see why these would relate to people. Even if the songs don’t apply, the lyrics incorporated can draw someone in.
Take, for example, a song dedicated to his daughter, “Odd Thing.” Even though I’m not a parent and actually cringe at songs written about people’s kids, the particular line of “What an odd thing to be alive in the 21st century, right here, right now” is a line that I think speaks to many of us.
The album does fall into some ruts and becomes kind of samey at points, causing me to tune out, but tracks like “Etwas,” a pretty touching song about the suicide of someone close to the band, and “the American Man,” which is a pretty spot-on description of what the past couple years of rhetoric from a subsection of the US has been, are enough to actively draw me back into the record.
If you’re a fan of indie-electro pop, there are far worse things you could be exploring and all of the proceeds go to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Center, so even if you pay a dollar for it on Bandcamp, and hate it, at least your money goes to a good cause, so go and give it a listen.
Ahhh Andrew, we all know you’re the warmest hearted metal head in Montreal! Who knows his indie to boot as well. Much like yourself, A Banner Year is a hit-and-miss record for me and I’d usually score that well under seven, but when this record hits, it hits hard. The opening track “The Eleventh Hour Effort” is an astute blend of indie and electronic in the vein of The Neighbourhood. Vocalist Brandon Peterson takes the reins and rides those strong vocals hard, with lush keyboards filling in on all the sweet spots. Without a fuck of a question, “Odd Thing” is my favorite jam on this offering, hitting me on the same heartstrings that Death Cab For Cutie have hammered for the past two decades; a lighthearted melody with gripping vocals, neatly composed yet not overbearing, four minutes in length, all the ingredients for a hit. Once again, Peterson’s vocals highlight the piece as they should for any pop-driven indie piece.
Alright, we’ve established the good and in a great deal, Andrew and I agree, lots of poignant lines and subject matter, strong vocals and arrangements. But here’s where A Banner Year loses a couple of points for myself and it’s that age-old pitfall that I call back to so very often. As a whole, this project just becomes too repetitive and banal. Cherry pick a few singles here and I’m a happy boy, but the second half of this record lacks originality and creativeness. One hundred percent moody electronic indie that gets by on incredible vocals and top production, but at the end of the day, for me to start throwing out 8’s 9’s and 10’s I need some virtuosity, something that’s gonna leave a hole in my skull or a wet spot in my pants! No reason it can’t happen for Cloud Caverns.
Written by Andrew Wieler & Lee Ferguson
*Edited by Dominic Abate