Review: Vundabar masters the art of variety in ‘Either Light’

Courtesy Vundabar/Instagram

In the age of digitally produced music, some pop tracks on the radio can feel bland, formulaic or, worst of all, predictable.

Indie-rock trio Vundabar’s latest album “Either Light”—released March 13—gifts listeners with one-of-a-kind songs that do not follow musical blueprints and are instead crafted with an original approach that keeps listeners’ minds engaged and ready for more.

The fourth album in their discography, “Either Light” shows the band’s growth with more mature songwriting and crisper production quality. A greater attention to musical elements, including overlapping vocals and new timbres and sounds such as the xylophone, creates a more refined texture of sounds. Each layer of instrumentation can be distinctly heard from the others, yet they simultaneously blend together to produce a unified sound, a testament to the album’s production process and the band’s attention to small details.

Courtesy Vundabar/Instagram

The order of the eleven-track album seems carefully curated, judging by the way the songs flow into one another. The album kicks off with the mellow, mid-tempo “Out of It,” featuring a descending eighth-note bass line from bassist Zack Abramo. The dynamics and intensity of the instrumentation peak at the end of the song, and that riveting energy only increases as the following track “Burned Off” begins. The album continues to crescendo in this pattern until the eighth track, “Jester,” begins to relax the pace—a pace that extends until the collection’s final song, “Wax Face.”

Musical curveballs exist in every corner of the album, down to the individual notes at times. In “Paid For,” a guitar solo traverses a chromatic scale, throwing some dissonance in the track that contrasts from the gentle chord progression and relaxed tempo, keeping listeners attentive.

Sometimes the instruments take on other roles than what one might expect, such as Drew McDonald’s drumming in “Easier,” making the music feel just as melodic as the vocals. Or, how guitarist and vocalist Brandon Hagen’s vocals throughout the album often act as if they are a second guitar as he interjects vocal riffs during instrumental breaks.

Courtesy Vundabar/Instagram

The vocal melodies frequently take risks that pay off.

In both “Paid For” and “Easier,” two sets of harmonizing vocals overlap toward the end of the tracks, evoking a sonic wonderland for the ears. The higher pitches of the vocals combined with the staccato guitar riffs create an overall whimsical atmosphere for the album that feels like it could be the soundtrack to your dreams.

While this album continues Vundabar’s traditions of addictive melodies and grungy yet terse guitar riffs, the quieter moments on “Either Light” sustain for a longer time than those on previous releases, giving this album a more meditative feeling. These intense, yet subdued occasions are more balanced compared to the faster, more energetic songs that frequented the band’s first three albums.

“Either Light” is masterfully polished, with each track offering something diverse and original. This album delivers both songs perfect for dancing alone in your room or quietly reflecting on your day. Vundabar finds creative ways to utilize musical elements to construct a distinct repertoire of tunes that are unlike anything else.