Album Review: Vintage Talk – Self Titled
From the first moment I heard the guitars from Vintage Talk, I felt a personal connection with their music. Probably no one will get this reference, but their acoustic style reminded me of an old guitarist by the name of Phil Keaggy. Adding to that a genuine sense of folk music and intricate melodies, I could just feel a tangible sigh of relief when hearing their music. Fans of acoustic folk music simply must hear this album.
The opening “Prelude” really reminds me of a prelude to a church service. There’s something inherently worshipful about the style of the music. There are melodic runs that are endearing and relaxing. It leads nicely to “The Vendor,” another acoustic song, but one that invites in the vocals from of the three members Ryan Spitzel, Will Hardgrove, and Ellen Atwood. The vocal blending is one of the high points of the band’s sound. If you’re wondering where on the continuum of new folk music that they land, they are on the St. Paul de Vence side of things. Soft, melodic, and relaxing, they will have you wishing for cardigans and good tea (to say nothing of a good book).
Their track “Habits” really captivates me. Not only do the harmonies steal the show again, but I find myself drawn in by the intriguing chord progressions. Even the lyrics, in this case about a variety of vices, cause me to think about how I live my life in ways that are reflective rather than condemning. It’s like how you feel when you read a good poem; it just makes you look at life differently. The piano break on “Habits” just melts me and I can’t explain why.
“Old Self” is an intriguing, introspective piece that you might expect to hear from an emo band more than a folk trio. That “I don’t know what I’m feeling” lyric is so relatable it’s kind of scary. As you focus in on the lyrics and mood of this one, you can hear the depth of artistry that Vintage Talk bring to the table. They really are so much more than a three chord pop folk act. Instead, they bring an artistic style that reminds me of bands like Jars of Clay or even more recently The Oh Hellos. Their style and substance really transcends ordinary.
Despite the chuckle-worthy title “The Birds and the Bees,” the track is actually about a serious theme about a broken relationship. There’s an astonishing completeness in their three-part harmony. “Heaven awaits us” shows a promise to the music that is about more than this life. That otherworldly quality really comes through in each line. The reflection on the “birds and the bees” is actually about the wonder and joy of creation. It’s so fascinating to hear how the band layered the imagery. I can’t speak for him, but I think St. Francis would hum along to this one.
“Spell” is a stripped down, contemplative track. There’s a slow-crawling acoustic guitar that feels a bit bluesy. The vocal is delivered in earnest, encouraging the listener to move in and think about the spells we all encounter. The song just contributes to the remarkable versatility of the band. Despite the least production, this might be the one I’m most looking forward to hearing live. The final track “Katie’s Song” ends the album on an upbeat note. Even from the chord progression you can hear that it’s a positive track. Something about the song reminds me of my days at summer camp. Maybe it’s the optimism in the chord choices or the Colbie Callait-esque melody line, but the track is just sweet. I mean we can say that, right? Sweet? That’s not a very technical analysis, but gosh it’s the absolute best word for the sound.
I really like this album. In the cold and detached world of music criticism, maybe just “liking” something isn’t enough. But I love that it’s an album I could play with my whole family listening. I love that it makes me think about deep themes without being sullen. I like that it has theological and spiritual themes that don’t feel so dark and heavy that they are debilitating. I love that the songs are full of an inherent joy. Fans of acoustic folk music… as I said earlier… really need to listen to this album.