The Vacant Lots – Departure

The Vacant Lots came to the attention of the shoegazing ‘select’ when they were featured on Sonic Cathedrals ‘Psych for Sore Eyes’ compilation. The track in question ‘6am’ is included on their debut album Departure released again on those bastions of fine taste Sonic Cathedral.

The duo from Burlington, Vermont, have already won over some influential fans – including Suicide’s Alan Vega (who has just released a split single with them), Anton Newcombe (who has invited them to support The Brian Jonestown Massacre on their UK tour although alas not Manchester), Dean Wareham (who guests on their album) and cult novelist Jerry Stahl (who has been raving about them on Twitter).

The album all thirty odd minutes is a fine example of the reinvigorated psychedelic music scene and opener Mad Mary Jones with its catchy hooks and wild flurries of heavy analogue keys coupled with thundering drum is a fine statement of intent reminiscent in parts to the immediacy of The Black Angels which is not a bad thing in my book and has a great driving melody underlying the tune.

The Vacant Lots eye for experimentation is apparent throughout the album but not at the expense of melody. Too often their contemporaries get lost in a fog of effects laden guitars; however, the Vacant Lots pepper the album with retro key to diffuse the guitar drone sonics.

The production by Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom is apparent as songs such ‘Never Satisfied’ and ‘Tomorrow’ are reminiscent in part to Sonic Boom’s band with distant vocals and swirling echo laden guitars. Whilst lyrically there is yearning for the exoticism of the night with Jared Artaud intoning us to “paint this city there’s nothing we can’t do” and ‘Before the Evening’ explores similar lyrical themes and has a cool mid song tempo change with some fine tambourines bashing.

The Psych for Sore Eyes’ track ‘6am’ as mentioned features again with its squealing feedback intro and staccato drum machine layered over hollering vocals is an assault on the sense but in a good way. There’s also a nod to some of the greats with ‘Make the Connection’ fine chugging velvety underground guitar intro

Overall there is enough playful inventiveness to warrant the attention of their uber cool cult following. It’s not perfect and there are a couple of songs which don’t reach the heights of say Mad Mary Jones such as the album closer ‘Do Not Leave Me Know’ which is rather pedestrian by comparison but aside from this it’s a fine debut brimming with addictive psychedelic tunes. They are scheduled to appear at Liverpool’s International Psychedelic Music festival in September and I for one will be looking forward to seeing them there.

Release Date 01/04/14 (Sonic Cathedral)


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Jonathan Roby

Overgrown indie kid with a penchant for americana, psych and weird folk.