Vices I admire, a four piece out of Denver, Colorado, have crafted a solid rock album. Their sophomore release, The Politics of Apathy, demonstrates both melancholy introspection and angsty passion. Instrumentation is strong, with Mickey Dollar on guitar, Dan Battenhouse on bass, and Mark Towne on drums. David Curtis delivers impressive vocals. Whether crooning or shouting, the man has some powerful lungs.
Recorded at Colorado Sound Studios, The Politics of Apathy is a heavily produced rock album. Vocals range from melodic to screaming- a technique Curtis employs with skill. Instrumentation draws heavily on metal. The high production and catchy, chunky, head-banging guitar riffs lands Vices I Admire solidly in the realm of rock; too polished for punk, too pretty for metal, and too classic for indie. While heavy production and borrowed metal riffs does seem to strip The Politics of Apathy of some authenticity and originality, a tangible passion and honesty behind the music saves this release from falling under the umbrella category of mainstream rock. Listeners won’t be able to avoid being caught up in each distinct track.
Track one, “Keep Killing Me,” is probably the most brutal track on the record, beginning with a curdling scream from Curtis. The rest of the track is consistent in intensity, with a head-banging chorus and some extreme metal riffage. The second song, “Heartbreaker,” is straight-up rock. Curtis shows off his pipes with quick shifts in intensity and a broad vocal range, backed by catchy guitar riffs. “Heartbreaker” is a solid rock hit, though not the most memorable or unique track on the album.
“Sweetest Girl” starts slower, picking up into a foot-tapping ballad interspersed with breakdowns and shifting tempos that provide an engaging aural texture. Again, Curtis’ vocals are showcased, as he accelerates from a slow lament to high-energy screams in mere seconds. “It Is” begins with a gentle snare roll from Towne, who is soon joined by piano and pretty meandering guitar. Curtis changes his timbre in “It Is,” replacing angst with a dark and restrained passion. The track demonstrates the versatility of Vices I admire, invoking masters of angst and subdued reflection Envy on the Coast. “It Is” is one of this release’s strongest offerings.
The fifth track, “Denouement: An Intermezzo,” serves as a melancholy ballad dividing the album. Curtis’ multi-track vocals are sweet and tortured in this brief, poignant interlude. Lyrics invoke maudlin imagery, and the piano is haunting, staying with the listener after the song’s conclusion and drawing her back again and again. “Kiss Kiss” counteracts the sweet sadness of “Denouement: An Intermezzo” with intense and immediate energy, though Curtis’ lyrics and timbre still echo the dark, contemplative undertones that course through the entire album. Instrumentation is vaguely reminiscent of early releases from dark rock kings My Chemical Romance. “Kiss Kiss” is one of the catchiest and most memorable tracks on The Politics of Apathy.
“Go the Spoils” kicks off with Curtis’ banter, monotone at times, invoking the apathy referenced in the album title. The vocals are layered over quintessential, understated guitar and drums of indie rock. The song has a pleasantly haunting cadence, mid-tempo and meandering, with whispered breakdowns and beautifully morose guitar wailing in the background. The conclusion delivers a dark explosion of passion from vocal and instruments alike. On “Apathology,” Curtis is almost rapping, which is somewhat of a disappointing divergence from his incredible vocal competency on other tracks. This delivery causes “Apathology” to veer towards musical territory previously charted by the likes of Linkin Park. Later, Curtis is joined by female backing vocals. The track is mid-tempo and builds gradually to an instrumental break where guitars partake in classic rock riffs. One of the album’s least experimental tracks, it also seems to lack the emotional intensity that carries much of the album.
The last track, “Monster,” is both fast and haunting, full of interesting quirks, such as eerie whistling and grim theological references to the cross. Lyrics, delivered by Curtis in the same almost-rap of the previous track, revolve around pessimistic observations on the human condition. The only track off the album to include profanity, “Monster” doesn’t overdo it, and lines such as fucking is the latest trend add to the passion and angst that Vices I Admire are so adept at capturing.
As a whole, The Politics of Apathy is a solid sophomore album. Vices I Admire harness and release energy effectively, exploring and, for the most part, sticking to their strengths. Listeners can expect this band to mature even further on future records, giving us more of the authentic passion that characterizes their songwriting and musicianship.
Review by Kendra Atleework