Album Review: The Villaineers’ Self-Titled LP
ALBANY – This week, The Villaineers’ 2021 self-titled record came across my desk. Throughout listening, I was greeted with a panoply of sounds from various genres, including but not limited to: psychedelia, rock, pop, and indie. While, as a whole, the songs are very well put together in terms of arrangement and instrumentation, there are times that I would’ve preferred a tighter performance in certain spots. Nevertheless, it made for an enjoyable ride as the tracks continued to play.
The opening track, “Overlook,” is perhaps the most evocative of the bunch, save for “Big Sugar,” which we’ll discuss in a bit. The Villaineers begin the audio journey of listening to a new album quite well, as they begin the song with acoustic guitar and cello. The haunting quality of the cello, along with the particular part they wrote, gives a nod to the overall “color” of the record. Another quality of the record that quickly comes to light via this track is the utilization of a lead electric guitar. Coming in and out of focus as the vocals enter and drop out is another prominent feature of the record; especially true for this track. I found it interesting that many audio effects are used on the vocal. In this manner, there are some pop sensibilities mixed in with what is otherwise a song dripping in indie aesthetic.
As mentioned earlier, the performances on the record – at least for this listener – sometimes detracted from the overall experience. In “Mr. Rochester,” for example, I felt the reggae section could’ve been executed a bit better in terms of rhythm. That being said, the fact the song does an about-face halfway through – changing into more of a straight-eighths rock feel – not only saves it, but explodes its energy. Not only are fuzz-effected guitar tones enjoyable for this listener, but I really appreciated how the song ended on a guitar solo outro. In fact, what I like most about this record is not only the slew of overlapping and interwoven guitar parts, but the tones in which they are recorded.
This is especially true for “Comfort Zone,” “Red Eye Waltz,” and “Saline River,” tracks three, four, and five, respectively. The chords and arrangement of “Red Eye Waltz” invokes such a sleepy, but captivating feeling to it that while it draws the energy of the record severely down, it also drew me in for further listening. Not wanting to stay at a lower energy for long, The Villaineers kick things back up with “Saline River.” The guitar – though not true for the entire song – follows the melody line often; driving forward not only the rhythm of the lyrics, but also the flow of the song. The title of this song, and its lyrics, start alluding to some very serious subject matters.
“Big Sugar,” the following track, as well as my favorite on the album, is better understood when listening to it directly after “Saline River.” A song that seems to be discussing the singer’s addiction to sugary based snacks and foods, I would argue there’s a lot more to these lyrics than first meets the eye. The way these lyrics are delivered, on top of the lush guitar tones that are saturated in reverb and tremolo effects; harkening back to the sounds of the early 1960’s, makes for a very compelling listen. What really stands out performance-wise on this track, is the effective use of chromaticism; keeping it ear-grabbing while not making it sound contrived.
My favorite bass line on the album occurs on “Last Rites.” A greasy-blues-rock tune, it is packed with a full-steam ahead, rollicking rhythm. Not only is the bass part particularly groovy on this song, but the vocals are some of the best-delivered on the entire album. Juxtaposed to this tune is “Beeswax,” a very stripped-down piece. Featuring heavily saturated tremolo guitar, and an extremely bare-bones feel, it almost feels like a tune one would hear on a Tom Waits record, aside from the lack of gravelly-sounding vocals. Worth mentioning is the fact this tune is the only one on the record without a defined drum part. Musically, there wasn’t much after this track that grabbed my ears. That being said, it was nice to hear a Latin influenced song on the record; “Such Noble Men,” track nine.
If you’re looking for a record that blends several genres all at once, and want to try something that is rock, blues, and folk influenced, then give this record a try. While there are some moments that shook me out of the listening experience, there were definitely some high-moments in there, too! Stream the album today on any of the main online streaming platforms. To support the band directly, follow the Bandcamp link at the end of the article.
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