Album: The Cave Singers, Welcome Joy (Matador)

Formed from the debris of three Seattle post-punk bands too obscure to mention by name, the Cave Singers are another trio working in the nu-folk wake of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, with all the accompanying growth of facial hair that entails.

Welcome Joy is an improvement over last year's Invitation Songs, on which they let songs meander on well beyond their welcome: these 10 tracks last between three and four minutes apiece, their condensed arrangements making a virtue of sweetness and simplicity. "Leap", for instance, is rapt and delicate, its sprightly but subdued snare shuffle and hypnotic guitar motif bringing to mind José González, until a burst of harmonica signals a build-up of momentum. Rhythm is their secret weapon, with "At the Cut" bowling along with a skiffle-style folksy hullabaloo, while the combination of hypnotic groove and unimposing songcraft in "I Don't Mind" develops with the minimalist charm of the third Velvet Underground album. But they're a well-named group, with Pete Quirk's tremulous, vibrato vocal possessing a muffled, distant quality that shrouds the songs in a pleasing mystery. But such lines as can be discerned convey an individual apprehension of emotional power.

Download this: Summer Light, Leap, I Don't Mind, Hen of the Woods