Album Review: Vaults – Caught in Still Life

 

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of this album, ever since being introduced to their music by a friend at Glastonbury earlier this year. As such a powerful musical force, I had been amazed to see how this band packed out the Greenpeace stage with their exceptional and breath-taking performance. On the surface, this is a great live band and perfect music to dance to in a field. Scratch the surface and the true potent emotion of this music can be uncovered, a strong, constant core which links the entire album together.

The album opens on ‘Cry No More’, an atmospheric mix of distorted triangles, with lower bass synths added later to build levels. Blythe Pepino’s simple melody soars over the intricate backing embellishments. This is clearly a song about moving on from heartbreak to achieve goals and become yourself again. Perhaps the same could be said about ‘Premonitions’, which is an epic battle cry of a song. Lyrically it reads like a mandate of strength in pain, harking back repeatedly to the refrain, ‘But we never look back/ No, we only look forward.’ The quiet confidence of the song as a whole grows as the layers build within the track, pointing to the excellent production of the album.

Hand on heart, I would say that ‘Midnight River’ is one of the best songs anyone has written this year, and it stuck with me ever since I heard it in June. It instantly feels like a timeless classic, imbued with themes of positivity and liberation. I can see this being one for the band’s setlist for many years to come. I love the ambiguity of the lyrics, and the vagueness for the listener to leave open to apply their own meaning to. It’s a much happier song, which sets it apart from the rest of the album which is darker and more intentional.

Vaults are masters of purveying emotion through songwriting, and the album goes fearlessly deep into topics like isolation, heartbreak and confusion, forging those feelings into something which is beautiful and peaceful to listen to. In my view, a big highlight of the album is ‘Bodies’, a quietly introspective outpouring of thought, against a simple, unobtrusive background. ‘I’m afraid that I’ve built myself so tall, you won’t catch me when I’m falling,’ is just one of the powerful lyrical mantras which form the basis of this record. Pepino’s vocals are a wonder, a chameleon of stances, spanning emotions from agonised vulnerability in ‘Lifespan’ and ‘Orphan’, to the wistful power of ‘Poison’, to the bittersweetness in ‘Overcome’.

I feel like this album traverses musicality and provides a wealth of music to do things to: music to dance to, music to work out to, music to reflect on. It’s hard to write about this album without mentioning the band’s excellent cover of ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ by Randy Crawford, now infamous for being featured in the John Lewis Christmas advert. This version feels effortless, and fits in succinctly with the rest of the record. It makes for a great finish to the album.

Overall, the album is a true gem, lyrically heartfelt and sonically intelligent, absolutely worth a listen.

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