Caliver – Box Spring Review

How in the world did a self-made album by two teenage unknowns get our attention? Read on to find out.

Caliver – Box Spring (2011) – 5.8 / 10.0

Running Time: 23:20
Label: Caliver Music
Genre: Alternative Folk, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Drug of Choice: Painkillers, Herbal Tea (They aren’t old enough to drink)
Key Tracks:
“The Highest Hopes”
“That Day”

This is the kind of story that NPR loves. Two white kids on the East Coast make ‘moody’ or ‘lush’ music from a house somewhere in upstate New York. All this story needs is a few beards and a lengthy speech about how someone seriously considered quitting music. Harrison Nantz and Corey Van Patten (jewish fellas?) are the 19-year-olds behind Caliver and their debut EP Box Spring is quite impressive for someone with that level of experience.

At its base, Caliver is not changing the world. Box Springs is a collection of songs about the idioms of love written by two college freshmen. What is worth appreciating here is the way that they approach those topics. While you would expect to hear either an awful, overly simplistic Pete Yorn acoustic set or a giddily awful Weezer Pop-Punk ripoff, Caliver sites their influences in Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons (though I think Swell Season is a more apt reference). The songwriting is shows pretensions of complexity and a fair respect for space and narrative patience. Those are not talents that come easily, and promise to pay off in spades as they improve as lyric writers. Perhaps most impressive about the songs on Box Spring is the sophistication with which the guys incorporate the horn, banjo, and piano arrangements into these tracks. I would be interested to hear them take a whack at centering a song around the piano, as these environmental additions tend to be more interesting than the acoustic strumming that centers the track on Box Spring.

As a record, the mix here is pretty raw. There are some rough edges with the vocal recording and it would be nice to here more dynamism in the instrumental levels (particularly to reduce the importance of the aforementioned acoustic). This is less of a problem on your headphones, but is fairly apparent over a loudspeaker. I have to begrudgingly admit that I am missing some of the studio effects that typically accompany these kinds of records. Of course, those effects wouldn’t be necessary if there was a little more affect in the vocal delivery. As the group begins to find their own voice and break away from ‘whisper song’, they will be more apt to pull off a raw performance and will be better for the effort. These minor complaints aside, Caliver is a group worth keeping an eye on.

Download Box Springs for FREE at Band Camp here.

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Reviewer Stats:
Reviews – 27
Average Rating – 6.85
Highest Rating – 9.5 Blitzen Trapper’s American Goldwing
Lowest Rating – 4.0 Her Space Holiday’s Her Space Holiday 

About Chris Bell

Chris Bell was born in the suburbs of Kansas City, MO in 1981. His path toward a life enjoying music began at ten, when he first heard Queen. Chris attended Truman State University in Kirksville, MO, where he studied English and Communication Arts. While there, Chris spent three years working as an on-air disc jockey for 88.7 KTRM Radio. Chris was the host/creator of the weekly ‘Tangled Up In Bob’ show and a frequent guest on the station’s weekend talk format, serving as a guest commentator on music and politics. It was during this time that Chris was first published by the National Communication Association. His work, ‘Dylan and the New Left: How Political Song Changed American Political Rhetoric’ was presented at the 2002 NCA National Convention in New Orleans. Chris was the only undergraduate to present research on his panel, ‘Rhetorical Strategies in Music’. After college, Chris moved back to Kansas City and started his own talent management company, Poker Face Productions. He continued to manage that company until moving to Brooklyn, NY to pursue a business opportunity in 2008. While there, Chris started as a weekly column writer and album reviewer for Now back in the Midwest, Chris is hoping to bring what he learned about music media in New York to his hometown and support an already vibrant arts culture in Kansas City. His areas of concentration include American Roots, Glam Rock, Punk, Psychedelia, Chamber Pop, American Underground, and Garage Rock.