There are bands like Grand Rapids, Michigan’s VAGABONDS, whose music is so personal, so intimate, that it eclipses these other purposes for the listener, and the album becomes almost memoir-esque. I Don’t Know What To Do Now, the band’s first full-length, is singer-songwriter Luke Dean’s story, a memory book stuffed full of black and white photos, of powerful quotes, of artifacts of a life survived.
The album starts with “A Memory,” in which Dean quite literally recounts a moment in his life as if reading an excerpt from his diary, but quickly moves into “A Self Fulfilling Prophecy,” a song whose mood and melody transports the listener to this scene. Here, gentle guitars cradle Dean’s subdued voice while a lonely trumpet floats above them. toward the end of the album, a song like “Nineveh” offers the counterpoint; Dean screams, “I close my eyes and I see violence,” above tumbling drums during a tense verse, then repeats, “I am darker than you think,” as his guitar paces back and forth like a caged tiger. But on most of I Don’t Know What To Do Now, Dean sets his scenes using only his voice and his Telecaster. When a quiet beat swells at the end of “Paralysis,” when a tambourine shivers on “Ambulance (I Am Nothing),” it’s easy not to notice. This is because Dean’s delicate melodies and brave confessions possess enough weight. His songs are about heavy subjects: depression and self-care and suicide—and, of course, courage and redemption.
Ultimately, bands like Vagabonds offer the listener little room for interpretation. But here they get something more than, say, another expressive portrait or a mere political manifesto; they get honesty, passion, catharsis, all candid and raw—Luke Dean’s truth, his whole self.
VAGABONDS' I Don’t Know What To Do Now is now available worldwide via Blood & Ink Records.