Caveman-a five-man vibe collective from NYC-released their first album in 2011. As first albums go, CoCo Beware was something akin to a moody statement of intent, a blueprint for a band quickly learning how to create horizon-wide rock songs that were equal parts intimate and expansive. The album quickly elevated Caveman from local band to watch to a sizable touring draw and formidable live act, as evidenced by stints on the road with the likes of The War on Drugs and Built to Spill. Despite being the work of a brand new band, CoCo Beware displayed a kind of Zen-like ease. It was the sound a five friends settling into a nice groove; the music that happens when, for whatever reason, a lot of seemingly disparate elements finally fall into place.
On their self-titled sophomore album Caveman stretch their legs in a number of different, albeit cohesive, directions. While the dreaded second album experience tends to be fraught for many bands, in the case of Caveman it proved to be the opposite. Having ridden a fast-growing wave of support for CoCo Beware-which, after two years of touring, ultimately culminated in a series of big hometown NYC shows-recording a follow up proved to be a genuine good time for the band. "We really learned how to play together," says keyboardist Sam Hopkins, "the shorter songs from the first record got longer and longer when we played them live. We learned how to stretch ourselves in different ways." As a result, the guitars on Caveman are bigger and more expansive, the rhythm section is tighter and more adventurous, the keyboards more opaque and pronounced.
While Caveman's music could certainly operate on the level of dreamy soundscape and still be excellent, the depth of feeling in front man Matthew Iwanusa's lyrics helps weave the songs deeply into your memory. As is the case with many a band on the rise, the price of popularity often comes at the surprise expense of everyone's own personal life; a topic that fuels many of the record's best tracks. Wonder and regret seem to fuel the record in almost equal measure. The words "dreamy" and "cinematic" and "vibe" might be some of the most lazily overused descriptors in the music-writers lexicon, but it's hard to think of another contemporary band that so completely embraces those terms as both an adjective for what they do and as a goal for the art they are trying to make. "A lot people don't relate to the idea of cinematic music-something that sounds like a film soundtrack-but I love that notion," says Iwanusa. "I love music that conjures a mood, sets a tone, and inspires a certain kind of visual. I hope people can get that from this record: a sound that accompanies this big ship flying through the trees, this big, crazy light that just fills up the sky."
An enigma of individuality, Danielle Johnson aka Danz aka Computer Magic is her own sound. Fueled by an obsession with music stemming back to growing up in the Catskills of New York, music has always been her mainstay. Danz joined the NYC music scene at 18 as a DJ and Promoter, eventually leaving her studies at Hunter College to focus strictly on her music career. Her party roster as a DJ included Ruff Club and Germs with Denny Le Nimh and Spencer Product, Saturdays at the TriBeca Grand for GBH, Space at the Darkroom with Dev Hynes, and Movie Night at the Darkroom with Anton Glamb.
A band at play is a band apart. Minneapolis duo Strange Names cull material and motivation from all of the expected places; it’s what it morphs into when they’re at play that establishes them as icons in the making. Acerbic, coy lines delivered in call and response lend them a youth and spume that reminds us of the Talking Heads and The Clash, as well-hewn, skronky guitar lines punctuate the playful lyric cadence with an authority that is equally tuneful and memorable.