There’s a quiet confidence at the heart of Up on High, the latest release from Andy Cabic and company. The central figure in Vetiver, Cabic has long trod California’s acoustic paths with many of the same surrounding friends joining along for various stretches. The result is a celebrated, cohesive catalog of warm Americana.
Back to Cabic’s confidence. Up on High was recorded by Vetiver together in a cabin in Joshua Tree over the course of a few days, and the organic approach is felt and heard on High’s 10 tracks. Cabic knew these songs were steady. The band knew they could flesh them out. The chemistry is understood; Cabic’s compositions trusted. Up on High, even in its formation, was Vetiver doing what Vetiver has always done.
The songs on Up on High, like so many Vetiver songs before, feel like companions for a journey that often leaves us lost or lonely. The title track sits with the listener and offers a vista of the beautiful unknown, convincing us there’s beauty in the mystery. “From the outside looking in / Can’t see where this will end / Tomorrow waits just for you and I / Up on high,” sings Cabic amid a series of wonderful musical flourishes (especially Jan Purat’s violin). The album’s longest track is also its most beautiful, providing a warm and welcome presence while tackling a lonely subject.
Even on more propulsive numbers, Cabic remains a faithful friend. The jangly guitar on “Swaying” sounds like a Reckoning outtake (R.E.M.), while Cabic finds the knowing is not the real answer after all and sings, “We’re here to find where the answers end / The two of us palm trees in the wind swaying.”
On “All We Could Want,” Cabic declares his commitment with the utmost intensity, “When clouds roll in and the sun grows dim / Who’s gonna lean in closer still, show no fear? / I will.” While the future might seem overwhelming, Cabic offers the soothing refrain, “Stay awhile / Rest here in my arms / For now we have all we could want.”
The album is balanced by moments of Cabic’s own vulnerability. “A Door Shuts Quick” exposes a heart pained by an unexpected ending. “The Living End” asks for mercy to “lift my spirits, raise ’em high.” In these songs, the listener can return the favor inasmuch as supporting an artist like this can help. The companionship, at least in part, can run both ways.
Like Vetiver’s best work (alongside which this album certainly stands), Up on High showcases the work of a veteran songsmith who realized the beauty of capturing and then sharing a musical moment. In that exchange, we’re offered a connection, a reminder, a challenge, a friend.