Caged Animals: In The Land Of Giants
Caged Animals is the strangely life-affirming bedroom project of songwriter Vincent Cacchione, a New Jersey-born Italian living in Brooklyn. Known previously for the nearly noir folk-rock of his former band Soft Black, Cacchione carries a strongly traditional gene in his brand of glitch-friendly pop – as inspired by the classic songwriting of Jeff Magnum or John Lennon’s solo material as the melancholic R&B twist of James Blake or Frank Ocean, or the perfect fusion of Chad Van Gaalen’s raw & pop qualities.
“I walked in the door and found him sprawled out on the carpet, the cops were the first on the scene and his son, who I’d met the week before, looked up at me wordlessly. I was holding two D-sized tanks of Oxygen and a delivery slip that was never going to get signed.” And so begins one of Vincent Cacchione’s most lasting memories of his time working as a courier of Oxygen, a role he performed for 70 hours a week around Staten Island. Driving the van from home to home and meeting new people (some for the first time, some for the last), it is a period Cacchione returned to often when writing his second album, ‘In The Land Of Giants’ – a record about family, faith and hope.
The renewed optimism of Caged Animals is surmised in the album’s opener, ‘Too Much Dark’: a twinkling, gospel-influenced piece of R&B, fulfilling Cacchione’s wider hope for a record that “injects computer-music with something simple and honest.” The result of this aspiration is apparent; In The Land Of Giants is a deeply human album, as concerned with the cosmos as it is earth and skin. Expressive and open, simple, but deep. These are personal songs about friendship and desire with Cacchione’s powerfully vulnerable vocals sitting atop a bed of home-grown beats, white noise, chiming synths, and instantly atmospheric ambience. For Cacchione, In The Land Of Giants became an opportunity to do everything that he does best, in one audio space, marrying the sonic experimentation of his love for electronica with the undeniable penchant for lyrical and emotional resonance he developed in Soft Black.
‘The Sound Of Thunder’, inspired by Vin’s friend from Soft Black, (Zachary) Cole Smith, and now lead DIIV-er, sneers triumphantly in the face of crushing inevitability, while the gentle, spiritual uplift of ‘What You’re looking For’ reassures with conviction that “it takes a long time, maybe your whole life, but you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
If the sound of ‘In The Land of Giants’ looks decidedly forwards, its inspirations are inevitably drawn from Cacchione’s past. Vin’s work with Soft Black dealt heavily with death, sparked after the untimely passing of Vin’s own father when he was just twenty. Cacchione’s father, a jewellery engraver, turned stand-up comedian, introduced an early love of music in his son, one which (for the first time in his career) now has a decidedly positive spin. “Right before I began writing the album I began to feel a new sort of peace with my family history and finally figured out how I could express this to others without bringing them along into the darkness.”
From ‘Too Much Dark,’ then, into the light – on their second album, Caged Animals ultimately strengthen the romantic vision that seeds through all their material, and won them praise across both sides of the Atlantic for the previous album, ‘Eat Their Own’. Debut single ‘Cindy+Me’ is a dark but infectious outlaw love song, a modern day Bonnie & Clyde based around a sample from synthesizer-pioneer Raymond Scott’s ‘Cindy Electronium’.
Elsewhere on the record, themes of friendship and love are explored. ‘A Psychic Lasso’ is about a co-dependent relationship between two men, following Vin’s realization that “so many gay songwriters tailored their couplets toward the heterosexual,” and deciding to pay tribute by doing the opposite. On tracks like ‘Stop Hurting Each Other,’ ‘We’re Playing With Fire,’ ‘Too Much Dark’ and ‘In The Land Of Giants,’ Cacchione proves the album’s point most concisely; this is an intimate yet grand Pop record from an artist that is not afraid to risk being seen as uncool in order to deliver something genuine, a record that finds the beauty of love in the most unlikely places (‘The Mute + The Mindreader’ and ‘U + Yr Rocketship’ specifically) and plays very well at night (‘Tiny Sounds’).
While Cacchione admits that this is the most spiritual record he’s been able to make this is more of a gospel record for the unidentified believer, a record that asks you to believe, without ever being brazen enough to tell you what in.