Dave Vargo’s return this season brings a two-track collection showcasing some fine songwriting and a beautifully crisp and heartfelt sound overall. In particular, This Time Around as an opener presents Vargo’s softly entrancing vocals by means of a poetically reflective string of lyrics and a simple, warming folk-rock melody.
There’s so much to like about this, the instrumentation alone sets the mood beautifully. The guitar sound is sublime – the quieter moments towards the end, when the drum-line falls away and only the voice and a few single strums of chords remain; these make it feel as if you’re right there in the room with the artist. Sure the production has played a huge part in this, a brilliant job has been done in letting every element shine brightly as and when it should, but even the world’s greatest producer can’t do a great deal with a song that doesn’t mean much to its singer. In this case, you can feel the passion of the performance, not with volume or unnecessary signalling, just with the honest and smooth manner in which everything is presented.
The second song in this collection has something of a Joshua James feel (Pitchfork in particular) – the country softness, the melody; those short lines that descend with the final word. It’s a welcomed reminder of another songwriter inherently connected to the art he creates. Dave Vargo is someone who continuously has this way with creativity.
Battle Burns is a surprisingly bright sounding song, there’s optimism in the chord progression and even in the melody. The lyrics too seem to build up towards a sense of possibility. The two words that make up the title conjure up perhaps thoughts of struggle or difficulty, but you don’t get that same feeling from the song itself. There’s talk of damage and fire, but there’s much more of a general air of overcoming – an element of strength seems to take centre stage, which has quite an inspiring energy about it.
The song’s optimism or hopefulness spreads through to the listener, so whatever struggles they may be facing – there’s a shared understanding in this moment that perhaps the better things are just around the corner. On the other hand, maybe this is Vargo dealing with pain by means of the positive glow of music when led by a series of major chords – The Smiths and Elliot Smith often used to do the same sort of thing, among others. The truth seems less intense when supported by such an uplifting musical spread. Whichever it may be, the openness, the realness, and the calming aura of the music all fuses well to create something valuable – something that does precisely what we expect from music in the first place; it lets us escape the noise of the world for a while.
To sum up, these two songs in full are simply gorgeous – beautifully authentic and very easy to lose yourself within. They’re also notably different in mood from one another, but those Dave Vargo threads stand tall in either case – and that’s always a beautiful sound, with some deeply thoughtful, peacefully presented ideas. Hopefully there’s more on the way.