Alternative folk? Americana? Whichever genre this is, it has never sounded better
Vandaveer return on the 19th of February with their 5th album, 'The Wild Mercury'. For seasoned listeners of Vandaveer – who are an ever changing rollcall of musicians led by Mark Charles Heidinger and Rose Guerin – there is plenty here to love, and for the uninitiated there couldn't be a better introduction to the indie/alternative/folk collective.
The album starts with an upbeat tempo which gradually slows throughout, and there are highlights at either end of the spectrum. There is the familiar juxtaposition of sad or haunting stories coupled with sweet and often uplifting music and vice versa. Mark Charles is a great storyteller, an employer of striking imagery and is capable of writing from a perspective beyond his years.
"A Little Time Off Ahead", one of album’s stand out tracks, is Vandaveer at their best. A catchy, toe tapping song about a man spending too much time away from his family. It’s easy to pick up the narrative and to be moved by lyrics such as “been away so long I can’t tell if my boy thinks I am just a friend, a friend of ma’s, maybe I just stop by to mow the lawn, well I got to fix this quick, he’ll be gone before too long.” The accompanying video shows a prisoner escaping and running home to his family, though one suspects the sentiment could easily be applied to any band member with a punishing tour schedule.
The slowest song on the album “Absolutely Over the Moon” is equally enthralling. An ode to a lifelong love, it’s difficult not to be lulled by Mark Charles’ warm and endearing voice. The inverse of “A Little Time Off Ahead” this time a sentiment of devotion is coupled with music more tragic in tone. It’s a trick they pull off well and rewards attentive listeners and those who come back to the record again and again.
"Final Word", another highlight, is unmistakably Vanadveer. A compelling, almost chirpy, song which belies it’s bloody imagery “You deserve to be first in the line up to the guillotine” and “I deserve to be wrung by my neck beneath the blade.” It’s a wonderful reminder of their 2013 release “Oh, Willie, Please” an album devoted to murder ballads.
I must recommend taking your time with this record, to sit and enjoy it with no distractions. Feet up, with your favourite tipple. The album is more relaxed than their earlier stuff, it’s a real slice of contemporary Americana and if you allow it, it will easily transport you to the heart of these United States, away from the bright lights of the big cities. The album is littered with Mark Charles and Rose’s beautiful harmonies, they intertwine and complement each other perfectly, particularly on the closing track “A Pretty Thin Line.”
'The Wild Mercury' proves, if proof was needed, that 9 years on from their debut album Vandaveer are as enticing as ever and I suspect they have a great number of tales to tell yet.