Album Review: Annabelle’s Curse – Vast Oceans
Virginia folk rock band Annabelle’s Curse have released their fifth studio album, Vast Oceans. Although the band have been creating music for over ten years, Vast Oceans is the band’s first attempt to self-produce a record. So let’s dig in!
In the first instance, Vast Oceans is a spirited and well-crafted journey into emotions that can be quite overwhelming, from grief and antagonism to aspirations of love and prosperity. Released at a time of great uncertainty, it also offers an honest and deep exploration of social division, bullying and deceit. The blending of folk and alternative rock sounds is also rich and extensive, making each track a wonderful odyssey in instrumentation.
Vast Oceans begins with the analytical and punchy number ‘Bailout’. This is a track that not only explores a struggling relationship, but extends its narration on division and isolation to society and politics. With musical nods to The Shins and The National, the use of synths and electric guitars is sublime. Moreover, the subject matter seems strangely apt for our current times, despite being written a while ago. This makes the track one of the album’s highlights.
‘Pull the Weeds’ then takes a more reflective, tranquill note. Its echoed vocals and drifting guitars exude pure escapism, like a long drive on the open road on a summer evening. And the accompanying strings are also a lovely touch. This is then followed with the recently-released single ‘New Glow’ – the album’s sweet and heartfelt love song. It shines with its electric guitar and bass pulse, and the interplay between the male and female vocals help the track to stand out from the crowd. Here, the vocal harmonies shine, and the insrumentation is almost crashing in its dramatism.
Then, from the first second of ‘Thunder’, the piano melodies captivate you. Its narration on bullies and strained relationships is told in an honest yet compassionate manner. This is told from the perspective of a mother trying to guide her son in the right direction. Its instrumentation is wonderfully defiant, and the saxophone in the latter quarter of the track is delightful.
With the hints of the mandolin and saxophone, ‘Foul Beast’ is groovy and hypnotic. It is also playful with its rushing choruses and jiving rhythms. The track then concludes with vibrant guitar riffs, letting the musical odyssey arrive at a grounded, glorious indie rock closing. This flows really nicely into the title track ‘Vast Oceans’, where the guitar riffs and punchy vocals take centre stage. The indulgent guitar interludes pair wonderfully with the track’s message that anything is possible.
Vast Oceans then takes more of an acoustic, lullaby route with ‘Seven Seas’ and ‘For Layla’. In the latter track, the protagonist mourns the end of a relationship, left to wander about where that leaves him. Then, for a change of pace, ‘Call of the Void’ sees the return of rushing riffs, the glorious synths, as well as the banjo and mandoilin. With its fluidity in instrumentation and unrelenting spirit, it is definitely another highlight. ‘Bolts and Steel’ then situates itself is in a similar vein, albiet with some lovely country touches.
Finally, ‘Writing on the Wall’ is a delightful closer for such a sentimental and reflective album. With its narration on resisting departure and the troubling thoughts that linger, the track is a lovely look back at a chapter of one’s life.
The final verdict
In sum, as is fitting with a band as prolific and analytical as Annabelle’s Curse, the musical tapestry of Vast Oceans is rich, inspiring and irresistable. Even in spaces where the explorations seem troubling or melancholic, the instrumentation is uplifting, celebratory and therapeutic.
Listen to Vast Oceans below on Soundcloud!
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