Vacabou is a tough nut. There is something special about this group that is equally inviting and frustrating for the listener. On the one hand, I appreciate their work ethic and the indie mentality. Vacabou is in reality two people-Juan Feliu and Pascale Saravelli. Juan plays the instruments and sings some of the time and Pascale (a woman) sings all the time. Both are obviously very talented. What frustrates me is the group's tendency to try and evoke this idea that lo-fi production means independent which in turn means more respect. Basically, it comes down to dumbing down music to try and win friends. And it comes off as desperate.
The album begins with a track called "Meditation Park." It opens with this drum beat that is straight out of a Casio keyboard that I owned when I was growing up. I was twelve. You just had to press a button and when you wanted to change it up you would hit the "fill" button. When I put the album on for the first time, I got a little nostalgic. I'll admit it. But when I listened to the full song, I didn't fit. That damn tinny drum beat played throughout the whole song. It just…lurked. It lurked behind the beautiful vocals. It lurked behind the gorgeous guitar line reminiscent of a Chris Isaac song. It was like a stalker. As soon as you started listening for it, it was everywhere. This drum beat was so out of place in this song that I would liken it to watching a period movie where one of the actor's is clearly wearing sneakers. That dog just don't hunt.
The whole thing is an empty gesture to appear "legit". Of course, this is foolish. The band is so much better and well produced than a truly independent band is that the simple gesture diminishes the band as a whole. It seems like they are simply trying to fit in. This is a band that other bands should try to emulate not the other way around. Devics is a band that has a similar set up. They are a two person group with a woman handling most of the vocal duties. Their album moves forward musically and tries to create something that stands up to scrutiny by breaking formulas and defying expectations.
While Vacabou has their moments, they are more often than not marred by musical choices that don't make sense. In effect, their bizarre choices like the antiquated drum machine work at conjuring this picture of the band as amateurs. Often the songs sound like they were recorded (but recorded very well, mind you) by your friends in high school. The songs go on for too long. It is almost as if they fell in love with the idea of recording a song more than the song itself. "Rannevig" beeps and boops with an electronic fever that seems as interminable as it is unstoppable. All in all it helps conjure the image of a desolate winter through which you can see the girl whose color makes her pop from the background but the monotone computer voices reading the lyrics just add to the despair. The song picks up at the end to coincide with the girl but it is already too late. The experienced time of the song far outweighs the actual time. I was very surprised to learn that this song is only three minutes long. It felt like the whole winter.
Vacabou makes for great atmosphere but it doesn't stand up to closer listens. They are good at putting together their pieces but aren't good at knowing when to stop. Unintentionally, by trying to appear less professional, they manage to keep themselves from making a perfect album. I think that album is coming but it may only come with help from outside the group. I warily wait to see what is next.