Vermontís Calling Albany is music as an art form, the way it should be played. Sonic brush strokes paint gorgeous landscapes of splendid acoustic guitars, serene keyboards, and wistful harmonicas, creating 12 classic pop gems.
Calling Albany is the sophomore release from this indie rock supergroup consisting of Promise Ring vocalist Davey Von Bohlen and drummer Dan Didier and Pele guitarist Chris Roseanau. Vermont is everything a side project should be: a complete 180 from the original bandís trademark sound. None of Vermontís tracks could become Promise Ring songs. Von Bohlin and Didier exchange hard-rocking progressions, crashing drums, pristine production, and poppy hooks for laid-back sounds of summer, unpredictable instrumentation, restrained drumwork, and a more intimate recording style. They retain the Promise Ringís pop sensibilities and undeniable harmonies, and add rich, textured melodies and spiced-up percussion.
Von Bohlen, whose lyric sheets often straddle the line between saccharine ballads and basic ditties that attain catchiness through repetition, has expanded his abilities as a singer/songwriter. His songs swing from descriptive imagery to sincere storytelling to heartfelt yearning to retired basketball stars ("Ballad of Larry Bird," a definite vehicle for Von Bohlinís unmistakable childlike croons.)
Other highlights include the lo-fi "Bells of Saint Alcohol," with its despondent chamber pop style and cacophonous vocals, and "The World Doesnít Ask You," with a spacey acoustic guitar solo that makes you feel as if youíre in the room watching Roseanau screech his hands across his instrument. Pop music just doesnít get better than "Where the Wild Drums Are," with itís twinkly guitars parts, unbelievable harmonies, and crescending drums that seem always on the brink of erupting into dissonance, but end up playing the soundtrack to a comforting lullaby. Which is exactly Vermontís purpose--theyíre out so sing you to sleep, not rock your socks off. Next time Sunday afternoon arrives and breeze is just right, the sun is partially obscured by puffy clouds, the hammock is comfortable, the birds are chirping, and the smell of fresh-cut grass floats your direction, forget about your problems for just 38 minutes and put on Calling Albany.