Without a lot of prior knowledge in regards to Chad VanGaalen, I pressed play on this album with the notion I would be hearing cheeky punk beats. When an album is named Diaper Island, I can’t help but feel like there is supposed to be edgy and not-so-dramatic tunes to be listened to. I was shocked upon listening to hear the beautifully meditative craft that has been spun for us. Perhaps I’m jumping on this man’s bandwagon a little late; he does have other album releases dating back to 200, but still, this Shins, yet darker, sound is really enticing.
Despite the first two songs being all right, the one that got me hooked was “Burning Photographs,” the third track. It starts out with some cloudy ambience, and then jumps right into that catchy guitar and soft percussion that has me classifying it as jangly pop/rock and will have you bobbing your head and tapping your feet. VanGaalen’s voice is perfectly sharp and produced to fill the space not already taken by the groovy beat. At this point, I started to listen with extra-keen ears, hoping that more songs like this would grace Diaper Island. Luckily, I was right.
“Heavy Stones” follows, slowing down the album after the last song. While “Burning Photographs” was explosive and sharp, “Heavy Stones” is contained and meditative. On this one, the vocals remind me of those of Tony Dekker from Great Lake Swimmers, but that may just be due to their shared Canadian origins. Regardless, it is a song that presents its calm-sounding self to listeners, luring us into the peaceful sounds, only so it can break our hearts when VanGaalen croons, “I can’t remember your name” during the height of the song. “Sara” continues this calm spin on things, but the vocals have taken more of front spot for this number, becoming the main aspect.
After being introduced to two very different styles this early on the album, you can’t help but wonder if it is going to be a continuation of variety, or if the artist will pick a side in their styling’s. This man is different in that he does not; Diaper Island becomes a culmination of jangle and soothing, with “No Panic / No Heat” serving as the song that ties both sides together into one. The rest of the album continues in this fashion, and at the end, I was quite impressed; there are a lot of stunning qualities that I was missing out on in Mr. VanGaalen.
Download: Chad VanGaalen – Sara [MP3]