For a band whose tenure only dates back to the Spring of 2009, New York’s Vs.Antelope is comprised of a line-up that carries a long, but significant history: As part of their respective roles with J. Majesty, Jets to Brazil, Texas is the Reason, Retisonic, and Big Collapse, its members have shared stages and floorspace and Best Western breakfasts for the better part of the last fifteen years. Which is, perhaps, why the profound sense of connection and longing that so successfully permeates Vs.Antelope — the band’s self-titled debut — is not so much the belabored work of four strangers and a shot in the dark, but the sound of crystallized instinct.
Recorded over several months at Brooklyn Love Studios, Vs.Antelope enlisted the help of longstanding associate (and Rival Schools guitarist) Ian Love to produce the effort, and the result is a record that finds the human detail in an otherwise aerial view. “Forgotten Way,” for one, begins as a distant lament only to find its resolute close-up, whereas the rustic “Woodstock Mountains” filters pastoral introspection through a dissonant shoegazer’s lens. Still, it’s the band’s pop instincts that prevail: Singer Spanky Van Dyke’s lyrics, while often arguably inscrutable, pack their biggest punch when they’re as forthright as a pop song demands, and the epic groundswell of “Two Friends” rides on that universal notion before culminating in the particular — quite literally lifting itself from the shackles of downer pop. Its coda simply remarks, “I will always love you.”
On some level, Vs.Antelope is the kind of debut album that is rife with possibility: There is no major defection from past efforts and no concerted effort to slide itself rank and file with anything else that’s going on right now. It’s a move that implies confidence, and as VSA — as they like to call themselves — embark on the very public next phase of their career, this is the impression that matters. Because ultimately, somewhere in this existential folk and warm-blooded tension, there are anthems in these songs. You’ve just gotta believe.
Spanky Van Dyke: GUITAR & VOCAL
Matt Kane: GUITAR
Jim Kimball: BASS GUITAR
Chris Daly: DRUMS
Arctic Rodeo releases:
VS.ANTELOPE – “Vs.Antelope” – CD / LP+CD (arr030)