Thursday 19 June 2014

The Vacant Lots - Departure

US duo The Vacant Lots release their debut album Departure on Sonic Cathedral on June 30th.  Our reviewer Stuart Ralston discovered them, and their label, by happy accident and can't put the record down.

In a roundabout way, I have Gideon Coe from 6 Music to thank for this. Months ago, he was playing Lorelle Meets The Obsolete and their amazing single "What's Holding You?" on his late night radio show. Released on a label I (am embarrassed to admit) knew nothing about called Sonic Cathedral. I enjoyed the Lorelle Meets The Obsolete LP Chambers and then I discovered the promo of this record, Departure, in the distinct Sonic Cathedral cd sleeve, took it home, and fell in love with it.

Hailing from the United States, Burlington, Vermont to be precise, this is the band's self produced debut long player. Opening track "Mad Mary Jones" is a slice of pure 60s garage pop with singer Jared Artaud ramming home the "Mad Mary Jones" refrain over and over again to conclude the song. A strong opening.

"Never Satisfied" is up next and sees Artaud and bandmate Brian MacFadyen move from Nuggets mode to a homage to Spacemen 3 (main man Sonic Boom has mixed and mastered the LP to great effect). Touches of Stereolab's Transient Random Noisebursts can be found on "Tomorrow" before a Spector-esq "Paint This City" which slows the pace right down, showing that The Vacant Lots are a versatile duo.

"Before The Evening's thru" seeing the band return to a more blessed out psychedelic groove with a pounding baseline driving the song along. By this point in the album, I've convinced myself I have had this in my collection for years. It is a well crafted, mixed and mastered album and the band show an incredible maturity for a debut.

"6 AM" has touches of Alan Vega and Martin Rev about it; the band incidentally will be working with Vega of Suicide in the near future.

Stand out track, and another homage to Spacemen 3 / Suicide, is the epic "Make The Connection". There's a Velvets touch too as Jared Artaud delivers vocals reminiscent of John Cale. I look forward to hearing this performed live. It runs to 10 minutes on the album but you get the feeling they could stretch it out further when they are on stage.

"Do Not Leave Me Now" is an apt title for the closing track and sees the band end where they began with another garage number.

What strikes me about this record is that I love it immediately. It isn't a grower. I look forward to seeing the band take this out on the road.

Departure is released by Sonic Cathedral on 30th June on cd / vinyl / download with a bonus disc of earlier material, entitled Arrival, with initial copies in independent stores.  The vinyl sounds pretty special too as it's half white, half black.

The Vacant Lots tour with The Brian Jonestown Massacre at Brighton Concorde 2 (June 28), Lonon Roundhouse (July 1), Norwich Waterfront (2), Bristol Anson Rooms (3), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (4), finishing at Glasgow ABC (5).  They also play their own headline show at The Social in London on June 30.  They plan to return to the UK in September.

The Vacant Lots' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.

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