You’ve probably never heard of nu-hula. And to be honest, I hadn’t either until I discovered today’s Music Thursday spotlight. Because it is so obscure, there isn’t a textbook definition. But I can give you mine. Nu-hula is a subgenre of alternative pop that channels summery vibes and tropical percussion while also incorporating soft hip-hop production. It is chill, sophisticated, and fun all at once. As of this review, there is only one band that claims to write in this style. And that band would be Vacationer.
I am a big fan of Hellogoodbye. So when I saw that they were playing a show in Seattle for a very good price, I looked into his openers: Heavenly Beat (whom I did not care for) and Vacationer. Upon listening to their debut album, I was mildly interested. They certainly were not going to dissuade me from going to the concert.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me to go to the concert. After I had discerned this, continued to listen to Gone (the aforementioned debut). It was a slow process, but the album grew on me until it became all that I could listen to. It was breathtaking and groundbreaking.
I was quick to purchase Vacationer’s latest effort Relief on iTunes. Not once was I worried about them falling into the dreaded “sophomore slump,” and I was right to keep my worries at bay. Relief is a more polished album than its predecessor. It also has more stand out tracks (“Paradise Waiting” and “In the Grass” most notably). While Gone was an album that you listened to from start to finish, Relief can be dissected for more memorable and sing-a-long-able tracks while still retaining a solid overall flow.
However, I personally like Gone better. In an age of digital singles and EP’s, I still prefer a full-length album experience. And the debut pulled that off slightly better. I also feel that the under-refined sound gave it a bit of charm that’s missing from Relief. When you play Gone, there is a consistent slight buzz and crackle in the background as if you are spinning a vinyl. While present in a few tracks, it isn’t ever present in Relief.
Nevertheless, Relief is one of the strongest releases thus far in 2014. Kenny Vasoli, creator, bassist and lead singer (When was the last time you saw that combination? Oh, that’s right: with legends like the Police, Rush, and the Beatles,) has crafted a unique style that deserves more attention than what it is currently receiving. He blends feel-good lyrics (with very few and very minor potential content concerns, I might add) with feel-good music that will leave you wondering how to tap your foot whilst reclining in a hammock. He renews a sense of child-like wonder with a choral opening and lines like “It’s true/Beauty.” And behind all this is a heart of gold.
According to official band bios, Gone was built around the concept of taking a trip to escape the problems of life; yet the band’s intention is not a permanent escape but rather to “return to our lives refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes next.” Relief is built around the similar concept that relief or rest is necessary to live. And the band encourages us that such relief can be obtained, even in our dark cruel world.
So with great music and positive lyrics, Vacationer has put the metaphorical “best foot forward” via Relief. I hope to catch them next time they’re in town, and I will eagerly follow their future musical endeavors.
Listen to some singles from Relief on their Soundcloud. The first one’s a free download.