Caamp – By and By
Since the rise of twenty one pilots, one question has been on the minds of folks entrenched in the central Ohio music scene: who’s next?
I can’t definitively answer that question yet. However, one strong contender has emerged in Americana/folk group Caamp.
Given the shiny, polished, high-charisma product of twenty one pilots, Caamp might have been considered an unlikely candidate for this honor a couple of years ago. However, a few months ago Bruce Garfield, the director of the Columbus Music Commission (known as Music Columbus) emphatically said to me that Caamp was the “horse to bet on.”
The reason for Caamp’s rise is still somewhat lost on me, though I’m starting to get a clearer picture. I’ve covered a number of artists similar to them on this blog since Tuned Up’s origin in 2011. From what I gather, a lot of it has to do with a combination of being in the right place at the right time and a consistent grind of singles and strategic regional shows. Other acts have followed that model, and yet Caamp has been the one to rise above them all.
Listening to By and By has begun to lift the veil on why Caamp is the next artist to hit the national spotlight in a big way from Ohio. “Feels Like Home” took me back to 2013, when The Lumineers released their self-titled album. The song had a slow build, opening with the line “There’s something in my heart and it feels like fire.” That’s a line that may very well be prophetic as they continue to grow.
“No Sleep” is one of those songs that I’ll probably look back on when I’m feeling nostalgic about 2019. The first year of my 30s. The last without any nieces or nephews. I’ve never done well with transitions; but I often look at the fresh new periods that come with new beginnings fondly. The lyrics speak to this angst, but the warm guitar and steady beat hearken to that nostalgia I’ll feel someday.
Another reason why folks seem to be gravitating toward this band can be found in the song “Penny, Heads Up.” Take a read of the chorus:
Fallin’ in love to a little tiny speaker
Rain so hard that our tent started leakin’ on us
We ain’t got much what we got’s enough
When the going gets tough
We make our own good luck
When you hear something like that, it’s just endearing. It’s relatable and makes you feel good. “When the going gets tough, we make our own good luck” has a sort of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” vibe that makes working through the hard periods with someone you love lose its intimidation factor. The tough times are an opportunity for making precious memories.
Musically, Caamp isn’t really anything new on paper, though the artist takes a handful of liberties with this medium. There are plenty of artists I like that applies to, so I have to qualify that assertion while being honest. These are a bunch of mostly mid-tempo alternative folk songs where the prominent instruments are guitar and banjo. Velvet-y vocals add a little unique flavor and soul. “On & On & On” is a good track to use to introduce someone new to the band, showing off the vocal range as well as the “typical” mood of the record. Easy listening that’s heartfelt. “Moonsmoke” is a nice song that sounds like its name, applying some extra instrumentation in key moments.
A hypothesis I have for why this album may be hitting at the right time is as follows: 5-6 years ago, folk had a big rise with Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, Of Monsters and Men, etc. As those acts began to fall off or enter lulls in album release cycles, cinematic rock like X Ambassadors, Imagine Dragons, and the like rose to prominence. Could it be that the pendulum of music listening favor is about to swing back toward those stripped down, simple songs? The trajectory of Caamp from here on out will tell.
I have a feeling this album will continue to grow on me.