When you think of the word “smooth“, the mind conjures up a texture… Perhaps a material such as silk… soft to the touch and without any abrasiveness that can interrupt the contact when caressed. In the case of sound, “smooth” has a more-or-less similar definition; however, it employs a much deeper and abstract sense of texture that penetrates the soul and lifts it up and out of its shell so it can fly free outside of its boundaries. Many bands try to achieve this magic but a very small handful are actually able to accomplish it consistently. Out of this select few, Vodi tops the list.
To describe Vodi only as “smooth” is kind of an easy way out though. The amount of textures that this band brings to their music is quite the plethora of character and composition. Their songs can inspire feelings of accomplishment, loss, happiness, fear, melancholy and liveliness without batting an eye. Each song a new emotion, a new color, a new start. Their sound is a rare combination of the classic soft rock of the 1970’s with a modern spice that brings them into this current age of experimentation and sonic expansionism that permeates today’s independent music. Think Fleetwood Mac meets Neil Young meets The Eagles… and then suddenly, you invite Thom Yorke and David Byrne to the party. Yep… sit back and watch the shit happen. This is gonna be good.
Vodi’s lineup on stage is a kind of flux in that they often have other musicians replacing the “official” lineup but they always bring with them the very best in their respective instruments to join them. Last night’s team of musicians were Tom Lynch on guitar and lead vocals, Haley Lynch on guitar and vocals, Tank Lisenbe on drums and vocals, Austin Lloyd Sepulvado on keyboards and vocals, David Lasco on Keyboards and Gus Alvarado on percussion.
This particular show was a very special one for Vodi. It was a celebration of the release of their first full length recording aptly named, “Talk“. They took the stage quickly and began a show that in this humble writer’s opinion was a masterpiece filled with fun, vivacity and elation. All the proper feelings for a party that is going to rock your socks off. A bash indeed.
So, of course… after shooting the show and getting my own copy of the CD, I have been listening to “Talk” non-stop. Each time I hear it, I become more and more familiar with the great many textures that make this album a hell of a lot more than just “smooth“.
The CD begins with the song, “Notice”. The first sounds are the delightful echoing melody of Tom’s guitar followed closely by the rest of the band in what quickly becomes an invitation to Vodi’s nostalgic sound. Tom’s voice begins around the 20th second as he sings “Out here, out here on the corner…” immediately creating a physical image in your head of him in a very real place at a very real time. He finishes the verse with “…all it takes to bring a man down is a little bit of time”, and immediately the very real place and time is filled with very real human emotion and self doubt. Tom Lynch’s voice (and I say this without hesitation) is the best male singer’s voice I have heard in a great many years anywhere and in any language. He is extremely precise in his delivery and he is able to load each syllable with huge amounts of emotion that touch you immediately. He is a master craftsman at the top of his game. The song is a great start to the rest of the CD as it places a kind of rug (most likely a paisley rug with decorative fringe on the borders) on the floor, thus “tying the whole room together” even before the rest of the room has been placed yet.
The next song is the beautiful title track, “Talk“. It starts with a rolling drum beat that immediately makes you sway in time with it. The verses are in long minor chords, bringing the feeling of the song to a darker place as Tom softly sings “I was just a kid and you were making such a deal about it… holding it over my head”. The chorus suddenly opens up to a mayor progression as if bringing in light in bright sunbeams. In my head, this is what summer sounds like. Shimmering, radiant light shinning on darker places and making them much less scary and somber.
“Pressure” comes next and, oh my God… This song is a strange one to describe but I will try my best. To begin with, Tom’s voice is just out of this world once again. I said before what I thought about his voice, but in this song he just goes over the top and elevates the listener to another plane of existence. The song itself is not a complicated one. In fact it is highly repetitive, containing only three chords that drone on over and over for the whole duration of the ballad. The lyrics themselves are also not very elaborate or complicated but the way they are driven home is what makes this song possibly my favorite of the entire CD. This masterful delivery is what creates the emotion that accompanies the melody of a man learning how to live with someone for the first time. All the insecurities and doubts that come with that first experience are brilliantly expressed in very few words and in the end, isn’t this what a song should be able to do? Musically, this song reminds me a bit of that old Eagles song “I can’t tell you why” which, to this day, still brings a lump in my throat each time I hear it. I have a feeling that “Pressure” will be doing the same for years to come.
The fourth track is the song “First Time“. A magnificent, catchy song with beautiful melodies and positive sounds and lyrics that evoke love and hope as it tells the story of a man in love with his woman. This is not a song that intends to confuse the listener or play with his/her emotions. It is just a pure, positive and unmitigated good love song. This is the kind of song you want to dedicate to your partner on a private evening together… preferably with low lighting… you can thank Vodi for it later.
“Riverside” follows with its undertones of “Heroes” by David Bowie and quickly becomes something more in the line of Bruce Springsteen or even Meatloaf. If this song doesn’t make you tap your foot, nothing will. Tom’s raises his voice powerfully, giving him more of the airs of Neil Young as he belts out each word. Haley’s voice joins him just as powerfully and gives the listener the urge to sing along with them. The sound brings back those feelings of driving in your car on a Sunday afternoon through some backstreet road between two cities. That feeling of freedom and open space that makes you excited and hopeful for the future.
In “Night Creature” Vodi continues the nostalgic 70’s sound with a catchy guitar line that will stick in your head for a while (trust me on that one… it will). Although, in my opinion, it is probably the weakest song on the album, it could easily hold its own as a single and would stand out strongly on a lesser band’s repertoire. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good song. just not the best on the album.
Next in the queue is the southern anthem sounding “Quietly“. This song is a country song without actually being country, if that makes any sense to you at all. The melody is beautiful and, once again, Tom nails the crap out of it by filling each vowel with so much emotion that you empathize deeply with him as he sings the haunting chorus, “In the end though, no one goes quietly”. It is this precise writing and delivery of the lyrics that Vodi excels at over and over again. This song brings that point to a head very eloquently.
After this, “State Line” picks you up and takes you on a trip across time and space. The song opens with the words, “Well, she was a sight to see… she was lying on the floor”. The music is reminiscent of “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley, only BETTER. No, really… it truly is better. The melody is such a roller coaster of sentiment and emotion at every corner. At one point Tom sings, “The radio is on, it’s just a bunch of talk, just a bunch of words…”. For a songwriter, this is much deeper statement than meets the eye. A huge part of a songwriter’s craft are words. Without those in his/her toolbox, the songwriter cannot convey the direct messages that are so vital in communicating meaning and context. The nuance of carefully placing the right word in the right context at the right time in a melody is what songwriting is all about. Tom makes this point strongly and without equivocation.
The final track on the CD is “Gold“. This is a great song to end with. It doesn’t impact you in the way other songs on the album do, which in my opinion leaves you wanting more once the song ends. Maybe even clicking on that back button to hear a few of the middle tracks again, if not the entire CD (as was my case). The final repetition of “You remove yourself” is powerful in its delivery although I found myself wondering the relevance of the line within the rest of the song. I am sure there is a meaning there, just not entirely sure what it is yet.
Maybe I’ll hit that back button one more time.
Vodi’s debut album “Talk” is everything a debut album should be. A strong first impression that quickly defines the sound and character of a band and does not confuse the listener as to what is about to be heard. This definition is immediately understood in the first 10 seconds of the first song and is reinforced emphatically throughout the rest of the album until the very last note. I am really looking forward to hear what this band comes up with next. Judging by their debut, I am expecting great things.
To conclude, I will leave you, dear reader, with a few shots I took from last night’s awesome show and record release party at Rockefellers in Houston.
See you at the next show!