Just before Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to listen to the Vestiges EP from Arson Car. In the madness around the holidays, it should have been easy to just forget this completely… but I didn’t. There is something both catchy and calming about their music, and it stuck in my head.
Vestiges is not your typical gigging band. They are comprised of 4 members, 3 “thirty-somethings” and a “twenty-something”. They haven’t played live in 7 years and they have a fragmented existence as a band due to the challenges of balancing families, jobs, and school with their music. The Vestiges EP was a project 5 years in the making, with tracking starting in 2004 and being finished in 2009.
Their songs all share a melancholy, introspective mood with organic sounding, stripped down arrangements. Bass, drums, keyboards, and guitar are all played well, and with parts that avoid any real fanfare or excess. The vocals carry pleasant melodies with a moody and often somber feel. The overall arrangements are somewhat classic and timeless – by avoiding excess in their music the end result is something that could have been recorded in any of the last 4 decades and worked out OK. Overall, they have a melancholy, indie-rock feel with some definite ’80s influences.
This is the type of band who I can be very confident in saying that they would sound every bit as good live as they do in the studio, and probably better. Unfortunately, the studio recording lacks any real energy. The melancholy mood is almost too much, and even the more upbeat parts of their EP come out a little too laid back. Unless you are in the right mood for this type of an album, I imagine most people would enjoy this most in shuffle mode – where one could really enjoy the beauty of their simple arrangements and great melodies, but have some variety to break up the melancholy of this EP.
The tracks have a very common sound, and fit well together. I personally would have suggested that they change up the tonality of the instrumentation or arrangement more on a couple of the songs. For example, the keyboard could have been featured a little more prominently in the arrangement/mix on a song or two, and the guitarist could have perhaps dialed in a little different sound on their amp. This would have still fit nicely into “their sound” but would have given their sound a little more range and variety. The vocal fits in the mix pretty well, although I personally would have preferred that they bring it out of the mix just a bit more.
All that aside, I still feel that the songs are well-written and well-performed. Sure, like most EPs, the production quality could have been a little better, but overall I think they did quite well in nailing a production style that compliments their overall style. I quite enjoyed the calming impact of their music, and while the tone is somber and melancholy, the melodies are pleasant, not depressing.
I was surprised to learn that Arson Car has a history of Punk music in their past given the laid back feel of this EP. Frontman Tyson Henrie explained that these songs were very reflective of where they were in their lives at that point.
Hey, even a punk rocker needs to take a step back and be introspective from time to time.
Once I allowed myself to relax and submit to the calming influence of these songs, I must admit I really enjoyed these tracks. I would certainly recommend them to others and would genuinely be interested in hearing more of what they have to offer. Let’s hope their next project doesn’t take another 5 years!
You can check out Arson Car – Vestiges for yourself at http://arsoncar.bandcamp.com/