Smell Smoke, Vundabar’s third album, is much more straight forward and musically playful in nature than the band’s previous album Gawk. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, the indie rock band explores uncomfortable topics in a self-examining way. The album is an honest disclosure for lead singer Brandon Hagen who had been struggling with coping with the illness of a loved one. Despite its backstory, this album still keeps an accessible and positive outlook
The opening track “Acetone” immediately informs listeners that while Vundabar may not take themselves too seriously, they are adept at writing songs that are both catchy and sincere. The lyrics“Now that this suit’s taken shape / wonder will it bend or break/ oh yeah I know how that one goes” are coupled with an explosive percussive element and powerful guitar riffs that are both fuzzy and luminous. Something about this song feels fleeting; I found myself hitting the rewind button ad nauseam. Perhaps this is because the positive feelings that overcome you while listening to this song don’t defeat the underlying melancholia of the track. “I don’t want you to see the way I’ve been / Doled out a bleached persona / Burns off like acetone” are the lyrics that stick in your head after listening to the song and if given any thought, it becomes clear that Hagen is being incredibly vulnerable with himself and his listeners. Another great track from this album is “Tonight I’m Wearing Silk”; this song is driven with a punk vibe and encourages some serious head nodding. Sections of the song are simple and anthemic, but the songs also suddenly breaks into a rant with “Beat my head against the wall / Somebody tell me how it ought to be.” Another highlight from this album is “Diver” which is a slower take, but is nonetheless just as memorable as the rest of this album. The vocals on this track are still angsty while remaining smooth and refreshing.
Overall this album gets better with each listen; each time you notice something that might’ve been overlooked before, whether it be a lyric or riff. Smell Smoke is one of the coolest indie releases of 2018 so far.