The Earworm: Lavender Days by Caamp
Reviewed by Caitlin Reardon
(Mom+Pop, 2022; Listen here)
We all need a record that distracts us from the mundane, something that gives us a bit of substance to romanticize our lives with. Based on our current political climate, I think we are in desperate need of something feel-good that will help us to emotionally escape from the times we are currently living in. And music, in my very humble opinion, is basically a perfect solution (although it depends on what genre you indulge yourself in). It’s always there for you whenever you may need it.
I often turn to one of my favorite folk bands, Caamp, for a more uplifting and warm sound. Caamp’s last record, By and By, was my first impression of the band. It’s packed with earthy instrumentation, heartfelt and quippy lyrics, and moments of jam that stay the course. It is well-rounded with heart and honesty, and still remains as one of my most listened-to albums today.
The band also was a point of connection for my roommate, Elsbeth, and I. Before meeting, we texted about our interests, levels of cleanliness, and of course our favorite musical artists. Mutually, we both loved Caamp. Elsbeth even spontaneously bought us tickets to see them at the House of Blues in Boston for the coming winter (which was a fantastic show). I knew then and there that Elsbeth and I would make a great pair. Now, she is not only my roommate, but one of my best friends and someone I can always count on. So not only is Caamp just another great folk band, but a place where true friendship grows and thrives.
So after feeling a bit drained this week, I turned to Caamp, whose fourth album was released coincidentally on that darkened day when Roe v. Wade was overturned. Contrastingly entitled Lavender Days, the Ohio-based band surely created a dystopian getaway for my sorrows. The album art, too, paints the picturesque sound that listeners not only want, but need, at this very moment.
The album’s first track is an alluring invitation to enter Caamp’s lush, lavender world. “Come With Me Now” sets the tone for the record with tenderness, as vocalist Taylor Meier calls listeners in so intimately it feels as if he is speaking to you personally. Beginning with an assertive acoustic guitar, Meier’s vocals gently sweep over the strumming with ease:
“I wanna see ya, and feel ya /
And know ya as you move around /
I want to lead ya fearless, in moonlight, forward bound /
I see the green in your eyes, and it’s strong /
Just like your shoulders /
Come with me to the creek, darling /
I got something to show ya.”
The words, although simple, feel refreshing in the sense that they are so spirited. You can imagine the moonlight, the green eyes and the all-consuming urge to know a human so instinctively that Meier speaks of. As Meier repeats the words, “come with me now,” instrumentals — guitar, violin, banjo — build onto each other quickly and illustrate a tangible adventure. The backing vocals help cushion the track while the instrumentation breaks into a more Caamp-like pace that listeners know and love. Once the tension builds, the band lets the tempo fall to a relaxed state. Easeful but vibrant, this opening for the record surely convinced me of the project’s aesthetic. The caveat, however, is that Caamp could have let this slow tempo ride out for longer. I would have liked to hear that easy breakdown last for longer, but it seems that the band (throughout the album, too) wanted something more short and sweet.
Starkly transitioning to the next song, “Believe” kicks off with the crackling pop of a drink opening. At first listen, I was not head over heels with the song, but as I listened more it grew on me quite a bit. Raw drums and a simple lyrical pattern, Meier sings about believing in the person he loves. This track jolts awake the calm beauty that was “Come With Me Now,” with the electric guitar particularly standing out as the main star of the song, adding color and character to the rather straightforward but catchy rhythm. Meier’s voice truly stands out as he goes into his higher register which is somewhat rare for the band’s usual discography, ringing out strongly and showing his vocal abilities. The lyrics in the post-chorus themselves have that Caamp-esque punch: “When that sun shines through to the break of dawn / You better grab the keys, and leave the dogs at home.” Such playful lyrics make this fun to listen to, giving the listener room to attach memories to the song. “Believe” is a confident anthem of encouragement, further illustrating the folk dystopia we are immersed in.
“The Otter” is another example of a tune that cuts itself off. A foot-stomping song that catches speed and sets off to the races at the pre-chorus, the banjo and acoustic guitar carry that fresh pace organically. It seeks to paint a true folk picture by its fast tempo but still sprinkling in elements that mix into one lively tune. You can’t help but smile when you listen to this track, although my smile turned into a frown when it ended so soon. My wish for Caamp is that they realize the power that their instrumentals have — let it flow. I can guarantee folk listeners want to hear a jam song or two.
“Apple Tree Blues” is my personal favorite, released prior to the album as a single. This song truly encapsulates all that the record stands for — heart, acceptance and vulnerability — in its purest form. The lyrics are genuine and earnest, describing the yearning wish to escape all reality and travel somewhere beautiful with a friend. Through niche yet striking vignettes, Meier speaks of golden airplanes, raspberry velvet, walking in pouring rain and gambling. Such specific moments infuse warm hues, both emotionally and physically.
“Tell me what your heart's been through /
Tell me where you're going to /
Tell me all things you'd like to do but you can't /
'Cause you're scared that you're going to Hell /
Feels alright but you can't really tell.”
The chorus alludes to LGBTQ+ acceptance and stoops down to the listener at eye-level while coming from a place of understanding all the hardships you have been through. It makes you feel as if you have been truly seen. Even though external forces are letting you down, escaping for a night with the person who means most to you and will listen intently to you, is a beautiful concept that we can all relate to. Despite being a very vulnerable and intimate song, it never loses pace. Caamp is great at balancing the serious with the upbeat as this track proves with the steady rise and fall of the melody, as instrumentation effortlessly rides out and lets you enjoy the scenery for a while.
The end-half of the album is more stripped back. A more central theme of acceptance comes to the surface as if the existing troubles from the first half of the record are reaching a resolution through the speaker’s attitude of freeness. Songs like “All My Lonesome” and “Light” are on the softer side, leaving room for the lyrical narration to stand out as Meier sings about lost love, passions and the initiative of finding your own path in life. These tracks are supplemented with keys, violins and a delicate tonal shift acting as a little interlude-like transition, highlighting the release of self-destruction. Now, Caamp focuses on embracing your identity and problems rather than neglecting it.
I love how these songs are like a story, threading through each idea with the next. “Lavender Girl” feels like the resolution. A song about being willing to give up anything and everything to be with the person you love, the idea of the purple aesthetic has truly been reached. The banjo is sweet and has its own special moment. “Snowshoes,” however, is the true gem. Every instrument has its space to breathe. The banjo, mandolin, violin, shouty vocals blend together warmly and melt into one wistful jam. Meier’s spoken “Go on again” adds all the more home-jam ambience, as if you are listening to your friends play their instruments together cozily.
Lavender Days is a natural evolution for Caamp. A much more personal project than the others, I appreciate how easy the music feels while incorporating a mix of both slower tracks and folk-central grooves. I do wish, however, that some songs were a bit longer and less rushed. I am not as in love with it as By and By, but what I strongly appreciate is that Caamp stayed true to themselves and grew their identity as a group in ways that are more lyrical and genuine. Caamp’s Lavender Days illustrates how vulnerability is the key to reaching acceptance and joy - and waiting for you there are lush purple fields and a readiness to explore.
Caitlin Reardon is from Southampton, MA and is currently a journalism major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Since she was little, Caitlin loved to write and developed a passion for it. Her parents instilled in her from a very young age the importance of music and its uniqueness. Intertwining her love for music with writing, she found a knack for music reviewing through The Daily Collegian where you can find some of her published journalistic works in news and arts. She is very excited to expand her platform to Overheard with The Earworm and is open to article requests on particular albums. You can reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @caitlinjreardon.