For being such a short record, clocking in under half an hour, it certainly is diverse. Too diverse. As a listener, I don’t know what genre this band wants to be labeled as. Or is it one record defying the categorization of artists by genre? Virgin Forest is a band composed of musicians who write good music. Undoubtedly, the album has great tracks on it.
Led by a swelling baritone voice, the sophomore release presents itself with the quintessential “indie” track, ‘Don’t Be Afraid’, showcasing fuzzy bass and background ambience. It’s a fun tune, and it’s what initially hooked me to the idea of the band. But it’s a bit of a tease. It’s the longest track on the record, and it misleads the listener into believing that they’re in for another solid indie-rock release. ‘Different Blues’ is the cocktail of Southern twang, U2, and squeaky guitar affected with delay and it ends far too soon. ‘Get Away’, I suppose, is the band’s homage to harder rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s underwhelming. While the production on the album is stellar, it certainly doesn’t seem to agree with ‘Get Away’. It comes across as a jam that the band threw on as an inside joke that they’ll get a laugh from each time they listen to the record. The vocals get low, and the guitar gets “raging”, and it isn’t coherent with anything we’ve heard so far.
Three highly differentiated tracks that only seemed linked by the production and the album’s title. If I had heard each track separately, I would have thought I was listening to the various projects of one indecisive musician. It’s not flattering, and it detracted from the overall album experience. And to make matters worse, the record rotates between these three sounds until it ends. It’s a disappointment, really.
Virgin Forest has got talent and potential, but needs to make a decision.
With all that being said, I really only would go back to two-thirds of the album. The twangy tracks are dead-on. ‘Different Blues’, ‘Antichrist Blues’, and ‘Home Alone’ are arguably the best tracks behind ‘Don’t Be Afraid’. ‘Get Away’ and ‘Lifted’ are tough to listen to. ‘Easy Way Out’ would rank with them, but the last 30 seconds of atmospheric keyboards gives it some redeeming hipster credit. ‘Song For Nino’ is the moving clean-guitar-and-bass ballad that sits awkwardly on an already unorganized album. The song would be better appreciated if the band had stayed within the realm of ‘Don’t Be Afraid’.
Here’s hoping for the next release to stick with the country edge or take notes from The National and lengthen their songs.