Vows – Winter’s Grave (2011)

Tag, you’re it! That’s basically how I came across Vows – they liked one of my posts, and I took that as the online equivalent of “Can MrProzaKc come out and play?” Well, yes, yes I can! I like this album, quite a bit, and it’s a nice way of talking about an area of music I’ve been trying to explore for a while now and I’ve always felt it’s a bit harder than it should be.

Such a vast territory this “indie rock” is, right? And I mean, sure, it ought to be. If we’re to believe that mainstream music is quite hard to enter into, than there must be many more bands doing their own thing in venues all across the world than there are on MTV and such. And that’s in no way a means by which one can judge value. Vows have a great thing going, a truly interesting sound and the freedom to experiment and pursue the echoes leading them on. At the confluence between Radiohead and Cocteau Twins, this album is just remarkable. Lush, ethereal sound draped around a definite pop sensibility, this is music one can relate to, discreetly enjoy, whisper about to select friends and use as a soundtrack for solitude. I can easily appreciate the openness of this album, it’s inviting glow, albeit a bit chilly, mostly because of the slightly psychedelic space vacuum slithering under the surface of these songs. I sadly don’t have many points of reference in my attempt to gain some comparative perspective on the music, but I can say this – Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, I’ve tried them all out and I haven’t clicked. Vows, however, got my attention almost instantly.

You see, I get the feeling those other bands I mentioned treat their influences like a Rubik’s Cube – fascinating, compelling, but ultimately technical, leaving little to no opportunity for overlap and color blending. What I hear on Vow’s debut record is quite different. It’s like a finger-painting, where folk, electronica and rock blend in vibrant shades, surprising and full of depth, raw and joyous. The fact that the material is recorded in a home studio, or something along those lines, adds to this vibe of childlike glee I get from the record – there’s no pretension, no easy escape or eminent polish through production; the music sounds real, organic, close at hand and the playfulness and poetry permeating the album seem all together more vivid because of this.

This down to earth approach shines through the video to the third track of the album as well – a pleasantly imperfect, refreshingly non-symbolic visual complement to the harmony and cadence of the song itself. It’s just lovely to be able to softly put the ever-so-agitated post-post-modern critical mind to rest for a bit and just enjoy something like this, so home-spun, so sincere. Sure, the references and connections all bubble beneath the surface, but if there’s one thing this album reminds me of it to just force yourself to shut up once in a while, at least in your own head, and contemplate, allow the sediment to settle, drink it all in. I’m firmly wedged in a bleak, useless, beating-a-dead-horse winter here in Romania, and this record, aptly titled, makes me feel like there’s a safe, shimmering barrier between me and the seasonal lightlessness outside.

I haven’t been so excited about a new band since the In It write-up, and I’m really happy that I can embed the entire Winter’s Grave album in the post, just like in that instance. Bandcamp is amazing, really. I really hope you enjoy this record. Keep an ear open for Unreal Love (sounding almost like a late-Beatles outtake, with a delightful Spanish verse), and Queen Baby (reminding me so much of Cocteau Twins’ spacious sound). I wish these guys the best and I’m looking forward to the new album they’ve announced to be working on! See you soon!

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