A lot of what we listen to and write about on Backseat Mafia has one thing in common: potential. And that’s what I feel in this album from Denmark’s Vinyl Floor.
“Peninsula” is a concept album broken into two sides – the first is utopia, the second dystopia, albeit finishing on a minor-key upturn out of the gloom; compromise maybe ? But what is the story of this concept ? Maybe the story is that of Denmark, the peninsula of the title, and the band’s hopes for change there. Then again, maybe I’m trying too hard…
Regardless, although I have enjoyed this album, I’ve struggled with it, and that’s because I think this band struggled itself in making it. So many times while listening I found myself willing for the music to go in a different direction; sometimes it was because there was a devastating move they could have made, sometimes because they didn’t need to do what they had done because it robbed the song of the mood that had built up, and sometimes something entirely new was necessary.
In one way it made me think particularly of Crowded House and the transition from “Woodface” to “Together Alone”, switching producers from Mitchell Froom to Youth. “Woodface” is a great pop album but bears many flaws and one of them is Crowded House’s ability to undermine a song with a cartoonish keyboard part or a messy coda to an otherwise coherent track. Come “Together Alone” and Youth brought something new, something dark out of Crowded House; but he also brought out the willingness to make bold moves and the strength to be serious or stark without the compulsion to alleviate the tension.
Two tracks epitomise the potential to make that bolder move, and both are good songs, but they could really sock it to you, rather than just being enjoyable. Strong ballad “Car in the Sky” is begging for a more dramatic attack – as singer Charlie Pedersen’s voice tries to take off it feels rather as though the drums and guitars that should be supporting him have decided to stay on the ground. They’re crying out to be louder and further forward in the mix. And that’s something that is also true for instrumental album opener “Frames & Orchids”. They could take a straightforward lesson in the dynamics of this (type of) song from The Webb Brothers or Seafood. The contrast between the lush opening, which unveils atmospheric post-rock, and the hammering drums and guitar of the virtual chorus, is the critical element. I really like this song, (especially the lead guitar, gliding ever more serenely through the verses) but I could love it. All it needed was for the band to cut loose and go for it.
On “Diverging Paths”, Vinyl Floor set things up beautifully with a brooding organ and cascading tom toms before dissipating into a listless Oasis-y chorus. It feels like such a waste, when the opportunity was there to hook us with a massive rocking centrepiece. When the verse comes back in the chorus seems even more starkly under-powered. From the bridge, “Diverging Paths” delivers a fantastic ending, gradually climbing through ascending guitar parts into a mesmerising wash of feedback and distortion. See what happens when they let themselves get lost in the music ?
In amongst all this, a mention for two other good moments on “Peninsula”. Towards the end of side one, Vinyl Floor come over all Queens of the Stone Age on a song that reminds me of “The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret”. A propulsive chorus, riding on the back of a plaintive chord, is the perfect launchpad for the best chorus on this album: ramping up the guitars and drums before dropping down for the punchline. They end on a high, too, with the well-executed strings-and-keys album-closer. With “Frozen Moon”, a melancholy but attractive tune, Vinyl Floor ensure a successful bookending for “Peninsula”. “Frozen Moon” is of a kin with “Frames & Orchids” and as a result you leave this record with a feeling of completeness, that it was put together right.
These guys can be seen in Liverpool in May, so check them out if you can. Hopefully they’ll be back for a longer stay soon. This isn’t over, Vinyl Floor.
- Meet: an interview with Vinyl Floor (backseatmafia.wordpress.com)