With “Garston Parade,” local band The Vietnams have crafted an impressive debut album that covers a diverse range of genres and sounds, from folk medleys to blues riffs.
Their first album, released on iTunes and other online resources Jan. 25 for $10.98, demonstrates a great deal of musical knowledge and finesse. The album is certainly a promising start, especially for a college band that has been around for less than a year.
The songs on Garston Parade are predominantly folk heavy and are often bittersweet. The album kicks off with “Between You and Me,” a soft folk song that seamlessly combines guitar and banjo riffs as lead vocalist, Sean Kennedy sings words to dispel a lover’s idealistic notions about him.
The album carries on with folk for the next few songs, “Jimmy Boy,” “Fifteen Minutes” and “Empty Seat.” All of them are well worth a listen, but my favorite is “Empty Seat,” a somber song that heavily features banjo woven into acoustic guitar riffs, complemented with the voices of Kennedy and back up vocalist Karen Huntington.
From there, the album changes up with the piano laden “Color Inwards,” in which the voices of Kennedy and Huntington meld for a moving, bittersweet song. It is followed by more folk with “Oh Miss Deceiver,” which is also another high point for the album, especially when the backing vocals tie the song together in its second half.
After two more folk songs, the album switches gears into material that shows more influences of blues and rock, though most songs still retain a dominance on folk. “Step Two” sets the tone for these songs well by opening with an electric guitar, and later introducing a bluesy piano riff.
[singlepic id=235 w=300 h=300 float=left]It’s difficult to compare this album to many contemporary releases from other bands, as The Vietnams move through different genres over the album. Mumford & Sons might come to mind at moments of a couple of their folk songs, especially “Jimmy Boy,” and “Fifteen Minutes,” but Mumford & Sons are streamlined for mainstream success to the point that their albums are often fairly repetitive.
This is not the case with The Vietnams, who may be more accurately compared to bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in respect to the diverse range of sounds they employ. Such is the case with the slow song “The Most Astounding Fact,” which demonstrates flavors of rock, blues and folk. The song sucks in the listener again and again over seven minutes of acoustic and electric guitar mingling with excellently placed trumpet.
At times, it seems as if the band is still playing with the exact combination for their overall sound. If that’s the case, it’s an experiment that definitely benefits the listener.
Those who dislike folk may not find a lot to enjoy with this album, but to them, I recommend listening to the album on a weekend drive through the countryside. “Garston Parade” is the perfect soundtrack for it.
Personally, I loved the album, and I eagerly look forward to the next release by The Vietnams.