Either Light, the latest release from Vundabar is clearly a cut above their previous work. Boston Rockers Brandon Hagen and Drew McDonald step it up with lush textures, crisp overall production and a more refined and focused touch in songwriting. Strong themes permeate the album, with plenty of imagery depicting light and water. As a result the collection flows pleasantly through 11 tracks, held tight by a wide variety of styles that weave through post-punk and indie rock. Most of its melodies are bright and rich, with plenty of layers expertly blended by producer Patrick Hyland.
A third distinct element that’s also present are its references of cars, which gives the album an infectious moving pace. In “Petty Crime”, Hagen sings about “rollin ‘round this town in a hearse”. In “Codeine”, Hagen repeats that he’s only “hitching a ride”. Both instances are tinged with a gray melancholy, hinting that he’s not necessarily the one driving the wheel.
And here is where the album flips the script and shows its real charm. Beneath the light and dreamy aesthetic, lies heavy themes of navigating life under the trappings of capitalism. “Burned Off” talks about working “six weeks straight soaked to the bone” just “to chase elusive dollar on some breathless day”. In “Easier”, Hagen fantasizes about getting out of that life. Cutting all loose ends to make his way, but he sees no good end for it. Admitting that he’s a raft in the water full of debris, on his way to Trash Island.
Vundabar really gets creative with these themes, and it all comes together in a masterful way. “Paid For” is filled with glittering riffs and aqueous vocals. Hagen sings about “a man selling flowers in the intersection / Knee deep in the sun’s syrup and resin” before juxtaposing the words “Paid for” and “painful” in the chorus. Lamenting on how those of us who work on the harshest conditions are left with a mere pittance.
Everything comes together again in “Montage Music”, where Hagen makes creative use of the beloved 80’s movie trope by detailing a coming of age story where early on we “learn lizard ethics” to survive, and that we are called to one-up each other through frivolous pursuits. Mistakenly thinking that “A brand new soul and a new set of clothes” are what leads to a meaningful life.
Either Light is full of polish and depth, and even with its recurring themes, there’s a huge variety of sounds that keeps it fresh and exciting for any listener to navigate in.