(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, June 17, 2011

CD review - Vandelay Industries, Critter (2011)

The clever pop culture reference of Vandelay Industries' name is just enough out of date to indicate "irony". Refreshingly, the band offers a solid, sincere set of songs on their new EP, Critter. The sound is full of ringing guitars and firm, kick driven drum work. Walking a line between indie pop and pop punk, I'd add this to my favorite list of "snotty boys with guitars", except Vandelay Industries barely tries to pull off a sneer.

The EP is brief, with a mere four songs. Still, this showcases the band's pop foundation and solid playing. Effectively a professionally recorded demo, this taste leaves me ready for more.

Critter opens with the chiming guitar line of Joliet. Punchy rhythm guitars, a weaving keyboard line, and simple honest singing propel the song at a bouncy pace. They throw in a couple of breaks to drop the dynamic down for some emotional intensity. A couple of sweet touches in the arrangement include a weird stutter kick beat on the ends of the verses and the ending that slides in a surprise three part harmony on the last syllable:
It was tough
The worst one yet

And second chances are hard to get
The look on your face

You can never forget
On the day that he got out of Joliet
Golden Anchors & Crystal Sails has a driving indie rock feel, with bits of Weezer and Too Much Joy. The vocal trade offs are a nice touch, as are the tasteful guitar fills. It's an emotional coming of age song that proves deeper than the first listen suggests. Vandelay Industries manages to swirl together youthful naiveté, regret, and ragged pain into a storm of teenage feelings.

Riverside is full of folky earnestness. The lyrical phrasing is awkward at times, but the imagery and sincerity carry the song long enough to hit the satisfying guitar lead of the bridge. The line is suitably simple, but it kicks up the energy to keep the track from wallowing in sentiment.

Synesthesia starts with a great pop punk feel that slides into indie pop. It's catchy as hell. There's a mild bitterness, but the bouncy joy of the tune erodes any angst over the relationship problems in the lyrics. "And I'll go on, stabbing in the dark, aiming at your heart"? Well, maybe so, but the effect is more bluster than threat.

Synesthesia and Golden Anchors & Crystal Sails are the stronger songs on Critter, but the overall sound is fresh enough that I'll be keeping an eye out for this Ft. Collins band to play here or in Denver. Critter is available on iTunes.

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