Refuting any sort of sonic agenda, Orange County-based Vast Atlantic decided just over a year ago to make music only they themselves would want to hear. The payoff was a warm and comforting brew of sunny western folk—oddly familiar yet unaccustomed, almost as if the band stripped apart the elements of other artists and created a crafty gallimaufry. (Think an only-in-dreams collaboration between Neutral Milk Hotel and Old Crow Medicine Show.)
Their latest EP, So Long, opens with “Paddle to the Water,” a song so ambrosial they resurrected it from their previous disc, Darker Days. With an unfaltering heartbeat of a drum pattern (thanks to the ever-steady hands of Adam Herro), steel guitar and acoustic twangs only emphasize the track’s foot-tapping appeal. And then? Oh, yes, there are handclaps. But not enough to be obnoxiously trendy.
When comparing So Long and Darker Days, it’s clear that not much change—musical evolution, really—has occurred in the time between them. But why bother altering something that already garners adoration from being so fresh and bright? So Long’s title track is a ballad disguised as a country song thanks to the waa-waa of the metal slide hovering in the background. Two minutes in, the tempo doubles, a harmonica wails, and this slow crooner becomes an into-the-sunset sing-along. “Paralyzed” opens with a catchy little riff, and a slight distortion on Jarrett Killen’s lead vocals adds refreshing texture.
Vast Atlantic have honed a specific style, and though I fully endorse changing up anything constant, I almost hope they stay right where they are. It’s a good place to be.
Attention Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, along with your vital contact info and decent high-resolution photos (plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701. Or just be lazy and e-mail your MySpace link to email@example.com
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