I was quite disappointed by the single The Cave Singers gave us off their fourth LP, Naomi. It lacked the grittiness of their prior work; that gritty sound is what really set that band apart from others in the folk-rock realm. It was enough to not dig further. Enter Portland collective The Builders And The Butchers. Both bands formed in 2007 and both encompass that somewhat raw folk-rock sound favored in the Pacific Northwest.
Where The Cave Singers, at least with “Easy Way”, became a more polished rock group with a penchant for the accessible, The Builders And The Butchers have fully owned the ferocious raw folk-rock sound throughout. And it is even more present on their fourth proper album, Western Medicine Again, the band employs two percussionists, an array of horns and strings, and a vocalist who drenches his lyrics in highly-favored gritty emotion.
As one who hasn’t taken in The Builders And The Butchers’ full library of work, I cannot say this is their finest album to date. However, it’s the one that has intrigued me the most. Twelve songs, each of which drive home a tense, emotive vibe that borders on vicious. These songs are electric, not in the sense of “electronic” (as in genre), but in a dark and twisted manner you can actually taste.
These are songs that burn their way into your soul; you let them in, they burrow deep, creating an unparalleled anxious excitement. In folk-rock and folk-pop from 2013, the only album I place higher than this is that of the affable Typhoon, whose White Lighter comes out in another month or so. Western Medicine is one of this summer’s top must-hear albums.
Western Medicine is out now on Badman Recording Co. Listen to “Desert on Fire” below: