Review Summary: A thing of beauty...Vessels
is a fairly standard indie-rock album by nature. It is built loosely around the same aesthetics that have defined the genre for years – mellow percussion, tempo-driving guitars, thoughtful vocals, etc. What truly elevates Vessels
, however, is the dynamic musicianship on display. John Glenn’s passionate vocals, Curt Mulick’s tempo-driving percussion, Erik Flora’s/Kyle Hatch’s dual guitar duties, and Dave Parker’s subtle bass undertones all function together like one well-oiled machine. Every song on the album blends their strengths together flawlessly, yet there are still plenty of solos and other stand-alone moments that demonstrate the ingenuity of each individual. Opener and obvious highlight ‘The Reunion’ features a little bit of everything, beginning as a percussion and vocal-driven affair elevated by hopeful lyrics like “just go a little further” and “learning how to finally live our lives” before culminating in Flora’s well-placed guitar solo. As if that wasn’t enough, Flora immediately announces his presence on the riff-driven rocker of a follow up, ‘Hitting Reset’ – a track overflowing with reverberated electric guitar and Mulick’s impressive drum fills. All the while, Glenn continues his near-flawless vocal delivery with a series of overarching ooh-oohs
that lend ‘Hitting Reset’ just the right amount of atmosphere. At times it feels like they’re all trying to outdo one another, but it’s happening in the best way possible because nothing ever approaches the sensation of being disjointed. When a band demonstrates this much chemistry, it’s a thing of beauty.
For a guitar-heavy indie rock outing, Vessels
is surprisingly content dwelling in the mid-tempo. Stellar Young exhibits remarkable restraint, knowing just when to kick things up a notch as well as when to dial it down, in the process achieving a remarkable blend of paces, styles, and song structures. It would be easy to compare their approach to The Boxer Rebellion, if you take a percentage of that band’s ambient atmosphere and trade it in for more of an upbeat, rock-oriented approach. ‘Box of Echoes’, ‘Nomad’, and ‘We Got Away’ are all case-in-point examples, featuring stunning atmospheres (mostly courtesy of Glenn’s dream-like vocals and soft inflections) intertwined with a blend of electric and acoustic guitars. Sometimes everything mixes together so well that, as the album maintains its mostly steady pace, it can all end up sounding a little similar. However, these instances typically don’t last longer than a couple of tracks before the band introduces something totally unique and interesting to recapture your attention.
Although the mid-tempo rocker appears to be the band’s forte, there are still plenty of instances in which they exercise their ability to go well beyond – in either a heavier or
softer direction. While ‘Hitting Reset’ covers the best of the former, there’s a slew of tracks vying to be the highlight of the latter. ‘Former Life’ comes to mind as the most likely candidate due to its sheer scope – an off-beat, rhythmic introduction, a gradual buildup through the drumming, beautiful falsetto vocals, and intermittent, exploratory riffs that all erupt together in an explosion of splendor during the song’s final minute. Alongside ‘The Reunion’, it stands out as one of the best songs on Vessels
– a feat that, the more and more you listen, begins to reveal itself as quite the towering accomplishment. ‘Little Specs’ is another slower track that demands to be recognized, separating itself with whistle-mimicking acoustic guitar picking that very gradually builds up to a heavier percussive presence before fading back into silence. There’s plenty of rise-and-fall on Vessels
, and it plays out in such a way that the album ends up flowing with impeccable structure and unparalleled grace.
In all of its energy and earnestness, Vessels
just has a way of making indie-rock records of a similar mold sound uninspired and completely unemotional. Some artists make music because it is their career – they’re fairly detached from the whole experience, and view it as an item to be crafted and sold for public entertainment and personal profit. Others use it to convey their introverted side, pouring personal experiences and emotional weight into their product without much regard as to how it is perceived. Then there are those who make music with a vast, underlying purpose. The vocals project confidence. The instrumental components propel the lyrics forth like messages that need
to be heard. There’s this sense that the creators behind the music love what they do, and want to spread that feeling to anyone who is willing to listen. That’s the category that Vessels
falls into, and somehow someway, it always seems to be exactly what I need to hear.