Review Summary: An extraordinary album by an extraordinary band
Wow! Talk about impressive under-the-radar-bands! When I first heard about The Vespers two years ago, I didn't even technically *hear* about them from someone or someplace. I just happened to stumble upon them when I was looking up the definition of the word "vesper" (evening prayer). At the time, they only had one record out - Tell Your Mama -, so I gave it a spin since the band had uploaded their entire album to YouTube. It was pleasant enough; very easy listening all the way through, which I quite liked. However, the same elements that created that easy-listening factor made it somewhat dull in parts. It was too simple as a whole, and the songs didn't really differ from each other in many ways. As a result, the band set out to release something new last year, hoping to improve on what they had achieved before. From there, the small audience they had gathered had one question: did they succeed" Those (albeit few; for now) people will be overjoyed to learn that yes, they did, and then some.
"The Fourth Wall" kicks off with the semi-somber track "Better Now", and it's apparent from the start that the band has matured significantly, both lyrically and musically. The song tells the story of someone who has opened their eyes to Jesus, drawing from the story in John 9 where Jesus heals a blind man as a form of symbolism. Such symbolism shows up in other songs throughout the album, specifically the happy and somewhat silly “Flower, Flower”, the edgy “Got No Friends”, and (though more obvious here) the soft, piano-driven “Winter”.
Although the lyrics have improved since their last release, the most obvious difference is their sound. If you thought that this next effort would be calm and soothing to listen to all the way through, you thought wrong. There are happy songs, sad songs, dark songs, and even aggressive songs. Sure, the instruments remain the same for the most part - drums (in most songs), bass (either upright or electric), acoustic guitar, banjo, and sometimes piano in a select few cases – but the variety of sounds in this record is far more expansive than it has been in the past.
You might also notice upon reading the track list that yes, they did indeed cover Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face”, and it’s the best cover of the song I’ve heard. It’s certainly the grittiest track on the album, and apart from the vocals and clapping that were there in the original song, this version brings some slide guitar into the mix as well, which only adds to that grittiness. This makes it one of the standout tracks on the album; the catch is, most of the songs are standout tracks (with the exception of the songs “Instrument For You” and “Will You Love Me”, both of which were a bit dull compared to the rest of the album).
Overall, The Vespers have crafted an amazing record that should be getting far more recognition than it has in the time it’s been released. They are very up front about their Christian faith, but as long as you aren’t totally biased against such music, I definitely recommend you give this a listen, even if you don’t typically listen to this style of music. Heck, I didn’t listen to this kind of music, either, but this is the album that got me into listening to bluegrass, folk, delta blues, and pretty much every genre that this project encapsulates. This is a phenomenal effort on their part; an effort that I almost find hard to believe that they could ever top. However, I am eagerly awaiting their next release, whenever it may be, and in the meantime I can only hope that this review will turn more heads in their direction, giving them at least a fraction more of the attention that they deserve.
Standout tracks include "Better Now", "Flower, Flower", "Close My Eyes", and "Grinnin' In Your Face".