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UNSOUND: VACATIONS

09:36 13th April 2009 by
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VACATIONS
‘I Was Bikini/But Rain Afraid’
(Record Label Record Label)

I’ve always tried really, really hard to not write about new projects by members of bands that once were within the context of once was. But every once in a while, taking a small trip down memory lane to interpret the present is necessary. (I think they try to teach that in history classes, but between the wars, the diseases and the god awful heat, I was never really listening.) But enough about myself and the various ways in which I managed to skip blindly through school. I’ve got an iPod, and I listen to stuff. The latest of which, is from a Chicago trio dubbed Vacations, which, I have to admit, I understand better by analyzing the band’s past.

Vacations is comprised of Greg Sharp, Jeremy Bolen and Bobby Burg, of the almost broken up, seminal Chicago act Chin Up Chin Up. Chin Up Chin Up’s artful blend of slack-jawed wandering pop was and is still is part of my weekly rotation. The music, well, it’s hard to put into words, but it always lyrically brought to mind a few staples. Namely, water, the cold and Minnesota. Yeah, there was much, much more to it than that, but I can definitely pull out a handful of icy references from Chin Up Chin Up’s final record, and that always stuck with me and helped me navigate through the frigid east coast winter, telling me, “Hey dude, you’re not in this alone.”

I guess I should also admit that I’m pretty one-dimensional before I go any further, but the new band, Vacations, down to the very name of the band, isn’t as contextually cold as the former band. There’s an almost tropical feel to Vacations’ self-released debut album, ‘I Was Bikini/But Rain Afraid.’ (I guess bikinis and rain could be considered tropical too now that I think about.) It all starts with the instrumentation. Vacations has no guitar. Instead, the ukulele, kalimba and karimba have become the instruments of choice (along with some old but good bass, drum and keyboard standbys.) There’s still a “Minnesota” or two uttered throughout the album, but the ukulele has a funny way of warming up one of the coldest states in the U.S. I don’t know if switching from “cold” to “hot” was a conscious musical choice, but the alteration demonstrates a well-balanced proficiency of instrumentation, control of atmosphere and multi-dimensional song writing for the musicians behind Vacations. In other words, they threw the Chin Up Chin Up book away and created a body of comprehensively new, fresh and fun music. Not that Chin Up Chin Up is anything to complain about. Not by a long shot. It’s just refreshing to know that Vacations isn’t Chin Up Chin Up Part Deux.

I can’t say for sure, but that seems to be Vacations’ plan. They’ve done the band, practice, tour, record, shmooze thing for years now, in multiple forms, and Vacations doesn’t seem to want any part of the pre-conceived indie rock path. The collective members of the band are doing what they want, for themselves, and to that end, they’re not marketing themselves or asking anyone to pay 99 cents a song. Instead, they self-released this record with their own money, and they’re offering the album for a pay what you want price on their Web site. So the listener gets to decide what the album is worth, no questions asked. Though I will say this; if you’re looking for a new record from a group of Chicago-influenced musicians that dares to challenge conjecture and create expansive, wistful and genre-freeing bursts of hope and warmth, Vacations ‘I Was Bikini/But Rain Afraid’ is worth much more than a lousy ten-dollar bill.

MySpace those bitches here: www.myspace.com/vacationsmyspace

Download the album for a pay what you want price here: www.recordlabelrecordlabel.com/store/

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