Sire Records · March 27, 2020
Sleepyhead, Cavetown’s fourth studio album, allows singer-songwriter Robin “Robbie” Skinner to connect with his fans on a deeper level. Skinner is known for his poetic lyrics and “bedroom pop” instrumentals, which combine to create Cavetown’s unique sound. On Sleepyhead, Skinner maintains this sound while exploring personal themes such as love and mental health.
Five of the album’s eleven tracks (“Feb 14,” “Telescope,” “Things That Make It Warm,” “Sweet Tooth,” and “I Miss My Mum”) were released as singles prior to the album’s release at the end of March, and another track (“Trying”) was a new recording of a song Skinner released on Bandcamp back in 2015. This left dedicated fans with only five new songs, and led the project to feel more like an EP than a full studio album release. Still, the new songs did not disappoint.
The album opens with “Sweet Tooth,” in which Skinner reflects on a crush that makes him rethink his insecurities. He sings, “Guess I must be satisfactory / You said you love me exactly the way I am.” But some lines hint at the fact that this relationship may be unhealthy. Skinner’s crush could be too sweet, as he implies when he sings, “The sugar went straight to my brain” and “Never had a cavity / Never had nobody as sweet as you.” The following track “For You” is a continuation of “Sweet Tooth,” opening with distorted instrumentals and leading into a repetition of the chorus.
“Telescope” and “Things That Make It Warm” both demonstrate Skinner’s lyrical talents. The former tells the story of someone stuck inside of their own head, unable to get to the things and people they want. Skinner tells us that the narrator is “Sittin’ in a telescope / Silently with his fingers entwined / He puts his hand to the glass / What’s it like outside?” The latter simply tells the story of two birds building a nest together: “You and me, we can make this hole a home.”
“Feb 14,” “Pyjama Pants,” and “Wishing Well” reflect on the different stages of a relationship. “Pyjama Pants” is likely about Skinner’s first public relationship, which ended in early March. The song evokes the comfort one feels from being with their love with sweet and simple lines like “He’s a lavender bouquet / Spray it on my pillowcase.” In “Feb 14,” Valentine’s Day has become bittersweet as two people in a relationship know that they will have to separate. “Wishing Well” provides closure to this saga, as Skinner reflects on both the good and the bad ways in which his partner influenced him. He sings, “You’re the flowers on my grave / You’re the stone that keeps ’em in place.”
“Trying” is a re-recorded version of “I Promise I’m Trying,” which was originally released on Bandcamp in 2015 on a record called “Nervous Friends // Pt. 1.” It is a reflection of how his mother supported him while he was struggling with mental illness. “Snail” and “Empty Bed” also delve into Skinner’s mind, and specifically how he has dealt with mental illness. In all three songs, there exists an overarching theme of the desire to be “normal,” something that undoubtedly resonates with listeners who have also experienced some form of mental illness.
In “I Miss My Mum,” Skinner thinks about his time on tour and how he misses his family, particularly his mother. As his fame continues to increase, so too do his pressures as an artist and a performer. “Keep wakin’ up / With this weight on my chest / It’s just called bein’ a person / I never planned for this,” he tells his fans.
While Skinner’s lyrics are personal, they are also relatable. Framed by a traditional indie pop sound, his music is calm and reflective. At the same time, there is something about Skinner’s production, whether it be the ukulele instrumentals or the feminine harmonies, that has an almost addictive quality. Even as Skinner continues to grow as an artist and a person, his fans know they can always count on his classic sound.