ARKLIGHT “Vows” (Fall Break Records)

 I am a lifelong indie rocker. I can live with that, even though I haven’t been a full-fledged, card-carrying member for several years now. But when I was on, I was on: I essentially listened to nothing but indie or its offshoots throughout my college years, well into my late twenties. Pavement was my favorite, still is. Silver Jews were up there. Beat Happening existed. My point is, if you like any of these bands, as I did, and do, you should be ready for Arklight’s Vows.

This Brooklyn band has consistently popped up on my radar over the past year or so, releasing a few things here and there, some of which I covered right here on good old #CASSETTEGODS! It was all in fun, made with a bracing sort of garagey-ness and delivered with a brashness that belied the players recording prowess. Vows continues down the same stylistic path, but perhaps with a nod the seriousness of the title (a “vow” constituting a “solemn promise,” one not easily brushed off), the songs are more somber and sober. The Kolm brothers (and Monsieur Kostaras) are growing up, right before our eyes!

Vocals are still very much in the territory of Calvin Johnson/David Berman, and I like that. It’s an unusual timbre and one that’s not easily pulled off with success. Here they lend Vows some extra weight, as if the deepness reflects heaviness of spirit. Who’s to say there isn’t? Not me. Everything warbles and lilts. Melancholy pervades. “We sing out of tune” is extolled on “For the Better Sometime Soon,” as if there’s no strength left to sing properly. The more I listen to it, the more I think the Silver Jews comparisons are the most apt – there’s a dusty Nashville-ness that pervades this tape, as if the floor of the recording space was perpetually covered in sawdust and peanut shells.

And it all works, fundamentally, with heads low and guitars slung – I imagine the Arklight fellows sitting as they record this one. The tunes are wise beyond the years of their creators. Vows is a keeper, that’s my solemn promise to you.

--Ryan Masteller