Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Vacation Manor’s Self-Titled Album is a Shimmering and Diverse Expression of Emotion

Great songs are often those that we apply to our own lives; those that make us feel something familiar amidst the ever-changing nature of life. 'Vacation Manor' accomplishes just that with a cinematic, “drive-around” style of music. 

Ranging from synth-inspired indie rock, to a more folksy and acoustic indie sound, ‘Vacation Manor’ has a way of tugging at the heart, in a such a personal way.

The Virginia-based duo consists of Nathan Towles (vocals, guitar) and Cole Young (drums). These two have stumbled across something special with ‘Vacation Manor’

Throbbing bass lines drive so much emotion as vibrant and distant guitars lay on top to convey nostalgia. And of course, Towles’ vocal performance is exceptional and shows an impressive range of emotion. From the pop-rock anthem ‘If Only For Tonight,’ to the more ethereal, ‘You,’ Towles shows that he can bring energy and intimacy to the table.


Starting with the aforementioned ‘If Only For Tonight,’ the track so appropriately conveys the beginning of something. Palmed guitars and the feeling of floating on the highway at high speeds accompanied by the perfect sentiment of the chorus, “I want to drive far away with you.” Suddenly, everything you’ve left behind isn’t important, just you and the person you’re with on the road. With a beautiful chord progression and a perfect and simple guitar solo, this song hits hard, to say the least.


Going into the slightly more acoustic-pop track, ‘Parachute’ is another banger that includes a small section of the pre-chorus that is worth obsessing over as Towles’ beautiful falsetto builds into the chorus. This song is a great testament to how Towles’ chill, laid-back, style of singing works so well in a track bursting with energy. Also, this chorus jams as the syncopation between the guitar, bass, and vocal line blend so perfectly to go into another awesome guitar solo.


As the album continues, there starts to be a change in Vacation Manor’s sound. ‘To Be Misunderstood’ is slightly harder and reminiscent of the early 2010s; but also incorporates exciting and interesting chord progressions. Following from this track, ‘Can’t Run Forever,’ which I’ve come to see as a cool indie rock version of ‘September’ by Earth, Wind and Fire, we see a wider range of Vacation Manor’s abilities that incorporate an almost yacht-rock sound. But this doesn’t stick around long, as they come into their more intimate sound with ‘Apt. 4’ and ‘You.’


‘You’ is a very special track on this album. Groovy but chill, it’s a charmingly short song that reminds me of the west-coast acoustic vibes of The Shins; particularly from their 2012 album ‘Port of Morrow.’ Flowing through amazing chords and Towles’ perfect vocal delivery of the lyrics, we see his intoxicating falsetto performance in the chorus proclaiming, “I just want you.” And just as quick as it came, it’s gone.


The album’s second half continues to impress as it begins with the yearning sounds of ‘Thoughts in Progress’ and the driven but still very much chill ‘Mannequin.’


A seemingly underrated track on the album (based on Spotify plays) is ‘Miss Virginia.’ Seriously, go give it some plays if you like Towles’ falsetto and need a song that perfectly depicts the emotions that come with leaving a place. It’s a gorgeous, acoustic ballad with a melody to remember. Similarities can be drawn from this track to ‘You’ in its overall sound and beauty.


Coming out of ‘Miss Virginia’ is ‘Feel Something,’ which is a piano ballad with an emotional and inspiring melody and performance. Listening to this one, I’m reminded of certain emotional times in high school where I’d listen to ‘Brothers on a Hotel Bed’ by Death Cab for Cutie. And I think that’s the point. Vacation Manor’s Cole Young explained their philosophy well in their bio on their website, “When you’re listening... maybe you’ll hear some of your own story in the songs and even understand it a bit better.”


The end of this album comes with ‘What Could Be,’ a hopeful track that sounds a bit like a crossover between the Beatles and Coldplay. It has lush instrumentation with acoustic guitar, far-away piano, and breathy synths and vocals. Finally, the last track ‘Ending Credits,’ is the perfect ending and amalgamation of everything on the album. A fitting end to an engaging album.


So, if you’ve been looking for a new indie band on the rise, look no further than Vacation Manor. Their music feels personal, yet relatable and widely applicable. As Nathan puts it in their bio, “There’s introspection, but it’s communal.” And I'm really excited to join this community. They’ve found a great way to put their style of lyrics into songs both intimate and energetic. I have a hard time believing anyone would be disappointed with ‘Vacation Manor.’


Vacation Manor’ was released on June 11, 2021. Go listen. Seriously.



Christian Koller


Image: Vacation Manor Official Album Artwork




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