Choir Vandals // Dark Glow
Dark Glow, the debut full-length album from St. Louis-based alternative indie rock band Choir Vandals, sounds the way the quiet ending of something big feels on a rainy summer day: soft, bittersweet, and introspective.
Choir Vandals maintains a mature, consistent sound throughout their album — somewhere between Fleet Foxes and The 1975, with an Airborne Toxic Event flair — that rides on Austin McCutchen’s unique vocal style and a muted musical effect. The songs have a wonderful storytelling vibe and are extremely atmospheric, inciting emotion in the listener even in the absence of vocals or when the lyrics are layered between the instruments.
The vocals tend to have a muffled, droning quality, which creates a somewhat contradictory effect — it both adds to the overall experience of the music but hides the frequently poetic and poignant lyrics that could elevate the album from really good to excellent if they were more accessible.
Lines such as “I’m feeling desperate and down on my luck / I’ve been looking for love” in “White Gloves” and “I thought I’d find it in my room / blacking out as the fan blew / put my head in the oven just to forget about you / my feet in the flowers just to stop the bloom / I don’t want to celebrate sadness in some strange way / and it’s not what I want to talk about” in “Head in the Oven” demonstrate a gift for straightforward angst and introspection without tipping into sentimental self-indulgence.
Not to mention the last track on the album, “The One with the Bomb,” which opens with a voice over about the atomic bombs used against Japan and proceeds to go into the perspective of one of the pilots: “I feel the dust start to collect over my lungs they’re filling up it’s hard to breathe with what I’ve just done I’ve killed a lot of things today.” The effect is haunting and hints at a lot of promise for a successful high concept album from Choir Vandals in the future, should they choose to follow that route.
Overall, Dark Glow is a great debut full-length offering from Choir Vandals with a lot of appeal for both mainstream alternative rock fans and those who prefer a slightly more underground leaning. It’s obvious that a lot of deliberate work went into the music without it ever sounding forced, and the payoff is big.