Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Vitamin D's indie-pop is scattershot, with hits and misses

March 24, 2010

Vitamin-DSome bands seem to have several bands crashing about inside of them. Vitamin-D is one of those bands. There is a power-pop band, a stately indie-pop band, and a goofy indie-pop band all running around in Vitamin-D’s album Bridge. The problem is that they don’t all succeed at the same level.

Let’s get the goofy out of the way first. The least explicable song here is “George Washington Bridge,” which is one of four songs that have the word “bridge” in the title. It plays like a weird Decemberists cast-off, with a group of people singing the words of the title over and over with an accompanying accordion and guitar. It’s not bad at all, but it’s completely out of context for the album. There would have to be significantly more weirdness on this album for me to get behind this track completely. But I certainly could, as I’m pro-accordion, the song has a nice melody, and the overall effect is one of swaying and happiness. There could be more of this and I’d be happy. But there’s really not.

Then they have a couple of electric-fronted power-pop tunes. “Upstaged,” “Findable” and “Astoria Bridge” play out somewhere between the morose musings of Counting Crows and poppy missives of Fountains of Wayne. They are pleasant, but there’s nothing too unique about them. I’d take “Upstaged” over most pop on the radio, but the power-pop still plays second fiddle to the meat of the album, which is the stately indie-pop.

The majority of the album lies firmly in stately indie-pop. The rhythms are precise, the melodies are calm, the arrangements are meticulous, and the mood is morose. Bon Iver would envy the gloom that is crafted in “Trumpet Moment 2,” as the repeated brass chord ushers in a sense of melancholy only augmented by the sparse picking and eventual trumpet solo.  “The Summer Crossing” is a little more upbeat, features strings, and feels somewhat like The Album Leaf, musically. “Bartlett Bridge” features the trumpet again, and has a very calm, pleasing atmosphere.

This bulk of the album is what I prefer to listen to, as it has the most fully developed moods, the best melodies, and the tightest arrangements. The vocals don’t strain or stress, they just fit into the song as they should. It feels quite effortless on tunes like “Bartlett Bridge” and “Beneficial Bridge.” The inclusion of the instrumental track “Hopscotch” is a highlight, as it shows off the songwriting skil of Vitamin D. I would prefer to see more work in this vein, actually, as the arrangement was excellent and the tune was beautiful. Even if it wasn’t exactly pop music, it was gorgeous and made me feel. And that’s what good music should do.

The schizophrenia of the album takes its toll when listened to in full; the album never settles into a real rhythm, dragging the listener through various moods. But when listened to in bits and snippets, it’s very good music. I enjoyed many of the tracks, but as a full album it just doesn’t make much sense. I hope Vitamin D can streamline their sound more effectively next go-round.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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