Living their lives caught somewhere in between starving artists and superstars, the members of the LA-based indie rock duo Vaudeville Revival have independently released their second full-length album, suitably titled The Death of Los Angeles — a followup to their 2019 debut, Free Dirt. The music of Luke Culhane and Jake Marino shouldn’t solely be pigeon-holed into the ‘indie rock’ category, however, as they prove throughout their latest record that their eclectic sound glides across genres like funk, pop, Motown and shoegaze. Sprinkles of electronic tidbits add a sense of danceability to their songs, rarely heard from a band that so greatly channels classic rock vibes.
Where ‘Free Dirt’ showcased a myriad of abilities and styles, ‘The Death of Los Angeles’ is more calculated and concise.
The eight-song collection spans about 33 minutes of music, making it much more digestible than its predecessor. The recording quality is also impressively high (considering their lack of studio time) and is a true tribute to their development as both musicians and producers.
In regard to their progression, Vaudeville Revival says, “The most noteworthy difference between our first and second album is the theme. Free Dirt was a grab-bag of songs we had written from about 2017 to 2019. We titled it Free Dirt to explain the album’s content. On the other hand, our latest album The Death of Los Angeles has several, consistent themes and topics. More specifically, we touch on ambition, disillusionment and romance. The album peaks into the life of the hopeful creative-type, the lovers who moved in together too early and the beach bum.”
On this album, you’ll find compelling vocal performances, reminiscent of David Longstreth (of Dirty Projectors), grand guitar riffs and rhythms, reminiscent of bands like The Black Keys and The Sheepdogs, and thoughtful songwriting, paired with sonic dynamics that can get your feet moving or suck you into a reflective state of stillness.
Vaudeville undeniably brings an element of ‘revival’ to their approach, but correspondingly offers a breath of fresh air and an understanding of modern pop music. Songs like “Seemingly Continental” will take you back to a simpler time of blues and rock n’ roll, while “Back to Bed” will launch you into the future with an electronic trance and atmospheric flow. The Death of Los Angeles can surely be considered a product of the streaming era, where listeners aren’t bound to the music made by their own generation.
Structurally, the album makes a lot of sense. Beginning with a reprise from the analogously titled song from their first album, the gentle and somber piano piece brings to mind a sort of James Bond theme sensibility. The lyrics throughout the record give us insights into the lives of artists who have accomplished some, but not all of their goals in a city that isn’t what it used to be. LA used to be the place to be in terms of making it big as a musician, but in the digital age, the resources needed for success are less tangible and less reliant on location, leaving many creative-types feeling out-of-place.
Still, there is optimism in their voice.
The lead single, “Congruity”, is a curious semi-love song, worthy of blasting loudly on a long drive down PCH. The sounds of the track flaunt sunny days in LA, while the words mark trouble in paradise. Catchy melodies and vocal harmonies meet flashy transitions and romantic guitar leads.
High energy performances were something that the band prided themselves on before the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly put a pause on the entire industry, but you’ll find the essence of said energy in their recordings. The bulk of that spirit is found in the instrumental breakdowns on songs like “Teeth” and “Strings”, the latter of which almost didn’t make the album according to guitarist Jake Marino. Funny thing is… it ended up being my favorite track off the album!
“The Beach Song” polishes off the album on a quiet note, with the sound of ocean waves in the background, lulling the listener towards sentimental serenity. This soulful expression of acceptance is a fitting end to a narrative centered around finding joy in uncertainty and decisiveness in disillusionment. Ironically, I believe the talent and musicianship displayed by Vaudeville Revival on The Death of Los Angeles will pull them far away from the very feelings of uncertainty and disillusionment revealed on this album. Their ambition will surely prevail.
If you enjoyed this album as much as I did and you’re interested in supporting the band, you can purchase their music on Bandcamp and follow Vaudeville Revival on all streaming and social media platforms below. They plan to release several music videos supporting the album and new music by the end of the year, so check back for more!
Purchase or stream album:
- The Death of Los Angeles (Reprise)
- Time Well Spent
- Seemingly Continental
- Back To Bed
- The Beach Song
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.