It’s easy to forget what a recent luxury it is to be able to enjoy a song while wandering far from any source of live music. It’s more than just a pleasant way to spend an afternoon for Andy Cabic, frontman for Vetiver. During the recording of The Errant Charm, the band’s fifth full-length, long walks provided him with the musical equivalent of film dailies. Lyrics were swapped and production was tweaked as Cabic hiked San Francisco’s Richmond District, listening to mixes. The result is the band’s balmiest, most relaxed outing to date, with enough down-tempo hooks to score a whole summer’s worth of beach trips and barbecues.
Vetiver was never as freaky as its folkie collaborators Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom, and the band’s occasional dips into psychedelic riffage are completely absent here. They’ve been exchanged for a swirling electronic ambience, as on the opening track “It’s Beyond Me,” which halfway through transforms into Air-inspired, spacey pop. The shuffling tail-end to 2009’s Tight Knit provides the model for much of the rest of the album: There are Yo La Tengo-style lazy spells, drum machines set to “patter,” then abandoned to the surf, and gently lolling vocals that lean back more than they lead on. The boogie-woogie-boarding guitar and crisp piano of “Wonder Why” make the song a standout, right behind the embarrassingly “Kokomo”-like “Fog Emotion.” That track might be a misstep, but it’s a minor one that does little to dull another fine album by a band that rarely surprises, but always delivers.