[25 August 2014]
PopMatters Music Editor - Canada
Have you ever wondered what the Smiths might have sounded like if they went full out synth rock? Well, you might get your answer with Los Angeles’ Vow. Comprised of vocalist Julia Blake and instrumentalist Andrew Thomas, there’s an icy glacialness to the songs collected on their Make Me Yours EP, and Blake actually sounds remarkably like a feminine Morrissey with the way she bends her words and sounds quite plaintive doing so. Now, a lot of synth rock and pop bands cross my desk, and a lot of them sound exactly carbon copy what would have come out of the 1980s. Vow is quite a bit different. While they ride the dark goth rock vibe, there is a staggering originality to this material that brings them a cut or two above much of their peers. There’s also a certain liquidness to this material that makes those two things on either side of your head prickle and take notice.
What’s phenomenal about Make Me Yours is that, at 17 minutes long, it feels like a whole and complete album. There’s a seamlessness in sound. And there’s a chilly prettiness in the most brutal of moments. Take closer “Escapist”. It’s bleak, neon-lit: the kind of thing you’d listen to on a rainy night drive in the heart of a vacant city. And yet there’s a contrast, a wistfulness in the vocal melody that is light and hopeful. Opener “Miles Away”, meanwhile, sounds an awful lot like Kraftwerk with a slightly industrial bent. Wear leather and lace while listening to this. “Planks” squirts with ‘80s synth pop notions without being reductive or reflexive. “Palm” is the most organic moment on the disc, with a pulsating bass line that rewires the circuitry in your brain. “Charm” lurks with menace, a song that haunts the dark corners of your heart and soul and eats away at your insides. So, Make Me Yours is pretty fantastic and shows that Vow can carve a unique niche in a very throwback sound. Make no mistake, folks: Vow is wow, and your speakers may never the same after playing this.