Cavetown (Robin Skinner) is a musician who reached massive popularity on YouTube for his covers and original songs. Seven years later, Cavetown has gone on international tours, reached millions of fans and recorded three albums. Cavetown’s self-produced fourth album is Sleepyhead, a gentle, intentional and thoughtful work of musical art.
This is a track-by-track breakdown and review of the album.
“Sweet Tooth” is packed with 90s-esque music and creative lyrics. Semi-playful and personal, “Sweet Tooth” blends Cavetown’s matured sound and style with the classic marks of his music. Released on Valentine’s Day, this song is all about a crush that feels Electric guitar that doesn’t become sharp or overpowering dances in the background with similarly performed percussion, as Cavetown sings with details and care, “Never had a cavity/Never had nobody as sweet as you/Smooth around the edges, good as new/Gently insulating every rendez-vous/Caught myself blaming planets like you do/I know every line and curve of your tattoos…”
Acoustic guitar, piano and then building instrumental buzzes and percussion consume the majority of “For You.” Instrumentals go on for exactly 55 seconds before vocals begin. Chloe Moriondo, a musician who has joined Cavetown on tour who has a similar story to his, sings on the track. Also singing is Drew Monson, an incredibly popular comedic YouTuber. Other artists who sing on this track include Cavetown’s longtime friend Sam Goater, Michael Todd Berland and Wren Theriault. A rich chorus of voices brings a new sound and to the same lyrics of the chorus of “Sweet Tooth,” the group sings, “Sweet tooth for you, I’m wide awake/The sugar went straight to my brain/Feel like a kid, I double tap/My chest with my fist I like you, say it back.” The repetition of lyrics and building of instrumentals helps to make “For You” feel like the conclusion of a preface and the real commencement of “Sleepyhead.”
Another single off the album, “Telescope,” is filled with violin, acoustic guitar and lovely little beeps that makes the listener feel as though they’re truly floating in space. At 2:15, rushing noise of air sounds as though one is lifting off, emphasizing the extraterrestrial themes of the song. Fans of the 2004 German animated film Laura’s Star may feel waves of nostalgia and sense a connection when listening to this song due to the sweet and semi-magical sense of wonder presented in both the movie and the song. Cavetown sings about the sensation of feeling trapped and isolated, singing, “Sittin’ in a telescope/Silently with his fingers entwined/He puts his hand to the glass/What’s it like outside?” The listener feels isolated and distant, as though they’re experiencing the song through the lens of a telescope.
Love and loss are the common themes on this single off the album. Cavetown sounds reluctant to let go and sorrowful, though the instrumentals are upbeat. “Feb. 14” sounds as though someone is slipping away and nothing can be done about it, which is gut-wrenching for listeners who carefully listen to the lyrics, “She rubs my back for me/On February fourteen/She says that I’ll do great/That’s not what’s scaring me… I wish that was enough.” He sings about wanting to be with someone but getting pulled to perform, though it’s clear that Cavetwon is putting in an effort to be with a partner. He details his struggle, “…I miss you/She said she’s here if I ever need someone to talk to/But all I ever wanna talk about is you.” The song finishes on a note that’s ambiguous note as the song’s story instrumentals fade out slowly after Cavetown sings, “Feel my body fallin’ away/I’ll see you again someday.”
“Pyjama Pants” is about the sweet beginnings of a relationship – watching movies, inching hands together and feeling your heartbeat out of your chest. There is little else on the track except for some banjo and acoustic guitar, emphasizing the feeling of there being nothing else in the world but the beginnings of a relationship. Cavetown sings tentatively, “Flicker on the screen/You sit close to me I can finally breathe/And you rest your hand/On my pajama pants/Feel my heart beat fast.” The song eventually builds, like a relationship. Cymbal sizzling works to make the audio stronger, as the listener can assume the relationship also gains strength.
According to fans, Cavetown announced on a live stream that he wrote this song for his mother, which is clear, lyrically. “Trying” is the pain of a child hiding themselves from their parent, who, despite the love they have for each other, is simply unaware of the pain that their child is experiencing. He sings about a parent being blind to his sexuality (Cavetown identifies on the aromantic and asexual spectrum), making it clear that this is directed at the guiding figures in his life, “I’m trying to tear the wool from your eyes/But a part of me wants to let you be/’Cause then you wouldn’t see what I’ve become/I’m trying to shout, but no sound comes out/It’s like we’re in a dream state/But I should’ve woken up/Woken up by now.”
While the guitar is quick and light, the themes are burdened. Other verses are more hopeful, Cavetown sings, “Please, please be here for me dear…But this is just a bump in the road and I promise I’m trying.” This song is a plea to be heard, to be loved and to be understood. “Trying” is a promise and a breaking point.
Things That Make It Warm
“Things That Make It Warm” is as cozy as the cat snuggled under a blanket on the album cover of Sleepyhead. A friendly single off the album, Cavetown sings from a bird’s perspective. Jaunty guitar, clapping and happy humming create a warm atmosphere as he sings, “You and me, we can make this hole a home/We can fill it up with grass and all the things that make it warm/When you leave to go fly across the sea/I’ll be waiting here with Junior and the flowers that we’ve grown.” Using birds to talk about the feeling of comfort and home, Cavetown discusses life’s small needs and pleasures.
Sung with Chloe Moriondo, “Snail” is about facing the problems of your life and wanting to be a kid again simply. Cavetown sings about the medical and mental issues he has faced. How he wished he could simply have been “normal” and genuinely have experienced what it was like to have fit in singing, “I was just born like this Doctors knew before I did/There’s another snail living with me in my shell/It’s fair to say I don’t like it.” The song’s acoustic guitar is slow, like a snail, as the pair lists things that belong to childhoods: scraped knees, popsicles, tears and your “Sunday best.”
Bittersweet, “Wishing Well” is about the end of a relationship. Not angry or longing, Cavetown and Drew Monson sound almost bemused. With violins and a scratching that sounds almost like a heartbeat, the duo sings, “Did it hurt when you fell down my wishin’ well?… Do you see me in your dreams?/Convince yourself that this is happening/Did you forget everything?” A quick song, “Wishing Well” is a breakup song that dwells in the past without directing any anger towards the former partner.
I Miss My Mum
Cavetown has never strayed away from featuring his mother in his music or on his videos. On his 2018 smash hit “Boys Will Be Bugs,” he sings, “The other boys at school/Think it’s cool to hate your parents/But they’re lying all the time.” He has spoken about his mother’s influence on his work, as she is a flautist and music teacher, and someone who has inspired his care for others, according to a Billboard profile. On “I Miss My Mum,” backed by happy instrumentals, Cavetown offers a musical thank you note to his mother and comments on the struggles of simply existing, “Keep wakin’ up/With this weight on my chest/It’s just called bein’ a person/I never planned for this… It’s fine bein’ a person/’Cause I got to meet you…I miss my mum.” The lyrics are simple and sweet, but the emotion is deep and meaningful when the tenderness of Cavetown’s voice is heard.
cavetown and the woodpeckers in the studio making empty bed pic.twitter.com/NjzEn7DgHs
— rylee (@ryluhee) March 27, 2020
The final track on “Sleepyhead,” the song “Empty Bed” opens with the sound tape being inserted into a boombox and winding up, signaling the reflection and nostalgia of the song. Cavetown opens the track talking about having to give up his “furry animal” pet at age eight when he moved, leaving it with the neighbors, “Take care of him for me…”
He then discusses having a difficult time making friends at age 13, and attempting suicide, “Tried to make some friends, almost killed myself instead.” During the chorus Cavetown blends his concern for leaving his pet with him leaving Earth, “They said the meds will/Take care of things for me…” Cavetown sings to the pet, but also himself. The empty bed likely refers to the pet’s empty bed, but also his empty bed after dying, “Today I felt scared/Thinking ’bout your empty bed…But I know you’ll be fine/Yeah, you’ve got to stay alive.”
Cavetown uses the lost pet as a way to project his concerns for himself, needing both of them to stay alive. Studies have found that suicidal people can use caring for pets as a way to justify staying alive, and sometimes that’s what is needed to get through each day. Cavetown sings, “Just don’t forget to/Take care of you for me/I’ve been where you are goin’/Take care of you for me…”
“Empty Bed’ is about an early inability to have a desire to be alive, concluding “Sleepyhead” on a raw but honest note.
You can stream Sleeyphead everywhere!