The Vestals: The Vestals

The Vestals
The Vestals
Warming House

The Vestals know their alt-pop lore like Gray knew anatomy. They know the Connells from the dB's from the Lemonheads; R.E.M. on I.R.S and XTC on the BBC. They know the Smiths presaged Brit pop, which presaged Radiohead, and that Van Dyke Parks isn't state-owned property. All of the above are imprinted on The Vestals like a people's history of college rock.

The Vestals could be a collegiate classic. The band has polish, a Night Effects-like gleam that grins ear-to-ear between guitars, drum, and keyboards. Vocalist Jeremy Gordon knows his Thom Yorke. His voice is a glimmering, glottal wallop of cooed consonants. As evidenced by the Vestals' slippery chord progressions and Gordon's nocturnal ballads, it's safe to say the band members didn't hide away The Bends once Radiohead got experimental, and they're probably not ashamed to pull it out at parties. The Opener "Seven Hours" finds a percussive foundation sturdy enough for Gordon to stomp all over, with help from his brother Ben on guitar and keyboards. Gordon's voice dawdles over the last few moments of the song while Kris Schaefer's marching-band drum steadies him. Gordon keenly bridges his songs together, starting and ending his own conversations, envisioning a brief liaison on the expansive "Telescope" and later watching it dissolve on the concise "Too Late to Say Goodbye." "Three Girls Ago" traipses further into spacey alt-pop territory with a Nestlé guitar-crunch and a backing canon hinting at Queen. Gordon ties down the vocals on "Childhood Timeouts," letting the trickle of his guitar do the talking.

Despite the Vestals' tendency toward textbook pop structure, the Gordon brothers' imaginative and theatrical songwriting shines through on the idiosyncratic "Another Way to Kill Me": "Throw out these baby pictures with the bath/Yesterday I wrote a little story with far too many characters/named lonely." Somewhere beneath the wall-of-sound violins on the track "Before the Color Dries," Gordon whimpers a few surrealist swirls: "And the poets say it's okay to breathe dust/and smoke all day/Crept along the paintbrush shades her/Chinese vase/Flowers will not rest in here." But to get back to the bigger canvas, the Vestals prove, with aplomb, that a pop band can't reinvent the power chord. The Moral Kiosk wasn't built in a day.

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