Music

Vacationer Sets an Easygoing Mood and Sticks With It on 'Mindset'

Photo: Matt Schwartz / Courtesy of Downtown Records

Vacationer's combination of yacht rock, breezy tropical influences, and easygoing R&B is a fun, lighthearted combination on paper.

Mindset
Vacationer

Downtown

22 June 2018

Vacationer's combination of yacht rock, breezy tropical influences, and easygoing R&B is a fun, lighthearted combination on paper. In practice, at least on the band's third album, Mindset, it's surprisingly bland. One song drifts along into the next without much change in mood, speed, or sound. That is disappointing because the band members are clearly skilled musicians with a firm handle on the vibe they want to project.

A prime example of the band's musical stasis shows up relatively early on Mindset. The second song "Magnetism" counts as a barnburner in Vacationer land. It's a slightly faster than midtempo track anchored by a solid, backbeat-oriented drum part and a chirpy dual synth riff that's notable not for its melody but for how the notes end just a bit too quickly without any decay. Vocalist Kenny Vasoli sings sweetly through the song, but it never quite finds a catchy vocal hook. As the song winds down, the refrain "because it's magnetism" keeps repeating, but then ends abruptly, mid-word, and switches to "Euphoria", the third song. This is a cool technique, akin to someone changing radio stations. Except here it sounds like it changed to the exact same station. Because aside from being slower, "Euphoria" sounds very, very similar to "Magnetism". It's got synth strings, it's got a secondary synth riff, and everything is just relaxed and easygoing.

Maybe I should credit Vacationer for creating a mood because they certainly have that down. Mindset is by no means a difficult album to listen to. Vasoli's melodies are uniformly pretty, and the band's backing music blends in nicely with his delivery. But while that breezy, easygoing mood remains constant, the record is short on attention-grabbing, memorable hooks. An exception is "Late Bloomer", which has the lightest touch instrumentally on the album. The drums and bass are positively gentle, and there are quiet bongos and subtle marimba in the background. Interestingly, this is one of the few moments where the band throws in something unexpected, although it's minor. The bulk of the song follows a four-measure groove, and once every time through the groove there is a single, isolated snare drum hit in the middle of a beat. The main point of interest, though, is that Vasoli's refrain, "Just a late bloomer / Happy to be blooming at all" is memorable and catchy, possibly the only genuinely catchy chorus on the whole album.

Given the overall uniformity of mood and lack of hooks throughout the album, it falls to discussing individual parts or moments of interest that perked me up as a listener. "Turning" finds the band fully embracing the glitchy synth sounds they try elsewhere. It's the only song that departs from the baseline sound, as chopped-up synth string samples and bass notes create the backing for the whole song. And yet the slow tempo, light drums, and Vasoli's vocals keep the track in line with the rest of the album. And even then they drop the glitch sounds halfway through and proceed with the same groove on pianos and bass. "Hallucinations" features a thumping bass drum part that feels like a skeletal version of an EDM beat, while "Green" has quietly twinkling guitar arpeggios and layered vocal harmonies that help explain why "dream pop" is a subgenre label sometimes given to the band.

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