Cattle & Cane – Navigator
Pop | Folk
“Going Pop” has been a derogatory term in music for as long as I can remember. Used as a byword for forsaking any attempt at artistic vision and taking the path of least resistance. There are plenty of acts that give credence to Pop’s bad reputation. The kind that frequent the charts by churning out music that feels like it was conceived in a boardroom by businessmen, rather than in a studio by artists. These are sadly also the acts that get the most attention, but every so often a record cuts through the noise to shine a light on what it’s really about. When done right, Pop can produce the kind of record that lasts forever. The kind that carries that all too rare universal appeal; you can play it to anyone, anywhere, and still elicit joy. Navigator is an album that carries the torch for everything Pop hopes to be.
This record has really come out of left field as Cattle & Cane’s previous releases have been slow burners. Though they had bags of charm, it was only really uncovered after a few listens, and could easily be left forgotten only to be rediscovered again further down the line. Navigator is nothing like that, in fact in many ways it feels like a completely different band altogether. Tracks like ‘Neighbourhood’ and ‘Mexico’ are the kind of songs that grab you right from the start. Not only that, but they’re also the kind of songs that you’ll be playing on repeat in your head for days on end. ‘Mexico’ in particular has some of the most infectious and memorable hooks I’ve heard in ages. It’s the kind of song that would make you rush to open Shazam on your phone if you heard it while out and about, so that you could find out what it was and add it to your playlist post haste. Even the few filler tracks here are catchy enough to have been highlights on a lesser record.
It seems like a well documented phenomenon that if you embrace accessibility, you lose a touch of authenticity and meaning in the process. Clearly this brother and sister duo haven’t got the memo however. The album hasn’t lost anything in exchange for its hooks, instead it just seems to have improved in every aspect. Even when all the polish and finery is stripped away on tracks like ‘Waiting To Become’ and ‘Lion or the Lamb’ you find some of their best songwriting to date. Very much a break-up record, the lyrics contain real openness and honesty even when the music compels you get up and dance. It is a cohesive collection of songs that feel like they belong together, which is always a plus in my books.
Cattle & Cane have really nailed it with Navigator. Easily one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. It wears its Pop badge proudly and is the kind of record that you just want everyone to hear. They missed a trick releasing it so late in the year when it could so easily have been the soundtrack of the summer, but in all other ways it’s a Pop masterclass.