Melodically Fine and Familiar

I Was Here (Machine Records)

By Kevin Gibson

Cabin caught my attention a few years ago around the time my interest in the Scottish pop band Travis began to wane a bit. I still dig Travis, but it would be difficult for them (or anyone) to top The Man Who, no matter how hard they try.

The easiest similarity to draw with Cabin may be Coldplay, although of the two, Cabin is really the one I'd cast my lot with. (Some have even compared Cabin to My Morning Jacket, but I think that's largely geographical.) The Louisville band's new EP, I Was Here, comprises five emotional vignettes that meander in and out of dreamy pop states and psych-folk, maintaining enough accessibility to hold some mainstream appeal but without pandering to the radio audience (as I would argue Coldplay does).

But I'll also say that Cabin owes a debt of gratitude the aforementioned Travis - as in, if you love Travis, you MUST hear this CD. You'll either love it for its similarities or curse it as being intentionally similar.

Nevertheless, Cabin manages to win with its gentle, disarming melodies and the serene vocals of Noah Hewett-Ball. It also scores points for shiny production and wonderful mixes, with Sarah Welder's deft string and keyboard arrangements always delivering while never overpowering.

"I Was Here" kicks off the EP and literally sounds like it could be an outtake from The Man Who. (I offer this as a compliment.) Even the melody in this song sounds almost familiarly Travis, although if it mirrors any particular song, I sure can't come up with it.

"Dance With Me" melds a mournful ballad with a deceptively quick tempo by drummer Dave Chale that kicks in a measure into the song and doesn't relent. Billy Lease backfills the song nicely with a simple and persistent bass line that bolsters Chale's pacing. The song recalls all the fun and silly ways we interacted with the opposite sex during our adolescence and teen years, contrasting it with an unhappy adult relationship that has run aground.

"Cover Your Eyes" is a true ballad that offers the nugget "You can't hide from the world by covering your eyes" and features some elegant strings and keys to help deliver the melancholy lyric about trying to reach a lost soul.

"Musical Seats" changes directions a bit by adding some slightly heavier guitar sounds and keyboards that take on a bit of a vintage Police feel before evolving into a McCartney-esque epic. In fact, about three minutes into the song, it shifts into a riff that sounds eerily like the driving guitar guitars in Wings' "Band on the Run."

The EP closes with the choppy "Less Than = To," which ambles along on a steady diet of keyboards and strings, backed by some nicely understated drumming. The song itself is a study about the complicated issue of measuring up to society's standards. There's a nice interlude at about 2:40 that slows things down and offers a nice break before pushing ahead again and closing with a nicely aggressive coda.

All in all, not a bad effort and it absolutely hits a home run in terms of simply being what it was intended to be: an understated pop album that mixes artistry with melody in a serene setting. If that's your thing, you could do a heck of a lot worse than this disc.

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