The news of Vinyl Theatre’s latest album, STARCRUISER, brought with it feelings of teenage nostalgia and excitement. With three albums prior, the trio had a few years’ experience under their belts this go around. Half a decade after their 2013 debut, this album is the perfect reflection of the time spent growing into their own as artists and embracing the changes and experiences that come with that.
The opening number, “Our Song,” comes out of the gate running, with vocalist Keegan Calmes sounding as confident as ever. As he sings, “This is our song, I sing it at night, these are the best days of our lives,” to introduce this track, I can’t help but feel proud about how far the band has come thus far.
While the number starts off strong, its conclusion is even stronger: “I want to make you happy, I want to learn your name, I want to make you famous, if only in my heart and brain / I want to make decisions, I want to travel the world, I want to know you mean it, when you say you’ll stay for good / I want to make you happy, even when you make me sad.” Calmes introduces some edge as he yells these words out, and the passion behind them is palpable. Meanwhile, Chris Senner supports Calmes from the keys, and his inclusion, especially in this part of the song, is absolutely essential.
Track three, titled “Knock Knock,” is a bit more of an easy-listening, light jam. Although Keegan’s voice is the focal point, my favorite part is the guitar you can just barely hear behind Nick Cesarz on the drums. The lyrics are easy to relate to and the song is simplistic, but it still feels refreshing and new; this is a sound I’ve never heard from Vinyl Theatre before. Towards the second half of the song, however, the band throws in another surprise–rapping. I can honestly say, for me, it’s a bit difficult to listen to. Is it bad? Not necessarily. But completely out of nowhere and unexpected? Definitely.
Close to the end, “Masterpiece” is my absolute favorite off the album. Because I’m a cheesy romantic, the lyrics stand out the most to me, and the falsettos in Calmes’ voice are completely dreamy. Furthermore, the song still includes some groovy backing, with the drums and keys present but not overpowering the rest of the elements. It’s a modern-day, pop-rock love song, and two parts absolutely broke my heart in the best way:
- “Paint you like a masterpiece, you’re all that I wanna breathe, everything you are / All around the world I’m singing and waiting for my phone to ring and hear you on the line, hear you one more time.”
- “I don’t sleep at night, I just drive all night, trying to find a place to rest my mind, I’ve been missing you.”
Finishing up the album is “Dream of Me.” This one is stripped down, with nothing but an acoustic guitar, and it’s like a dream. From the beginning, the guitar strumming provides nearly a minute of melancholy feelings, before Keegan comes in gentle and fragile and soft. As he sings, “Won’t you dream of me? I always dream of you / When I’m gone, when it seems hard to breathe, let me know what you need / I’m always here for you, I’m always here for you,” this song makes my heart ache a bit. You can really feel the love that Vinyl Theatre put into it.
As a writer, what musicians say within the art they create resonates the most with me, and Vinyl Theatre delivered on that front. My favorite thing about STARCRUISER is that the lyrics are intentional, with plenty of thought and a story going into each song. Sonically, the record is a little too busy for me; there’s a lot going on in just about every track. With that being said, the talent from the three guys is showcased impeccably, and the words Calmes sings are something worth listening to.
Track by track, it is evident that the band is in the process of experimenting with different sounds. While I do prefer the older albums, I also recognize that they put everything they had into this release, and, overall, it’s still a good record from front to back. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve caught Vinyl Theatre at a show, but this album live is sure to be a trip. Brb, buying tickets now.
WORDS BY EMILY GORDON