Vacationer - Gone
"Most people don't take vacations often enough, some not at all" runs Vacationer's opening bio blurb. It goes on to explain that the vision for debut album Gone was to create an "audio postcard" sent from the tropical climbs alluded to in the group's music. The Philadelphia four-piece, centered around the vocals and production work of Kenny Vasoli, describe themselves rather tongue-in-cheekly as 'Nu-hula', but could more accurately be pitched as tropical trip-hop; an attractive mish-mash of style that borrows heavily from the aesthetics of chillwave without subscribing fully to its overwhelming sense of self-conscious imagery.
The Vacationer whistle was whetted last summer by standalone MP3 'Trip' - a heavily-swung slice of sunshine funk with a serious earworm of a melody and a production not too far from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The track swarmed the blogs, collecting plaudits, yet a follow-up failed to materialize until now, as the band drop a whole full length in the same vein.
'Trip' itself makes an appearance on Gone, albeit a little spruced up in the mix. It contains many of the elemental building blocks on which the rest of the album is built – insanely catchy opener 'Everyone Knows' proving to be a fine example. Here, Greg Altman's chopped guitar chords drive along a smooth yacht of a melody, as Vasoli's gleeful vocal, reminiscent in parts to Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend fame, hits the chorus' high notes with an audible smile.
'Good as New' throws more than just a nod towards The Avalanches' 2001 masterpiece Since I Left You, its floating strings and piano twinkles supporting yet another killer hook. It fast becomes clear that Vacationer are capable of more than just stylistic pastiche, as the tunes keep flowing – 'No Rules' displaying some rich harmonies and nice touches of xylophone/kalimba-type instrumentation. A wash of Beach House keyboards and breathy vocals are the title track's prominent components, lowering the tempo slightly to offset the rampant opening run.
There are definitely weak moments on Gone: the power pop of 'Dreamlike' grates, and the album falls a little flat through a couple of slower numbers in the middle, but all is forgiven by the time it reaches 'Farther' - a warm soup of static and Rhodes stabs, drifting in and back out again seemingly before it has a chance to get going; a half-dreamt fragment of an interlude that sets up delicate closer 'Be With You' well.
It's reassuring to know that Vasoli and co were not idly twiddling their thumbs while 'Trip' went stale in the ether; that they were obviously taking the time to craft a strong and attractive debut. Gone is a welcome addition to any summer playlist – clearly an initial aim of the band from the outset.
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