|Album Rating: B+|
Immediately, I was drawn into the beautiful, melodic acoustic finger picking that functions as the backbone for much of the music on Repave. I’ve always been a sucker for Owen’s complex plucking on his albums, so the first introductory notes of “Tiderays” resonated with me quickly. This opening track is also a good representation of the crescendos and dynamic changes that characterize a majority of the record's songs. Cuts like “Comrade” and “Byegone” both begin with delicately restrained verses before exploding into giant, arena rock choruses, which are just begging for a crowd of thousands to be singing along. In the latter, the band’s collective shouting of “Set sail” mimics this setting perfectly, and ultimately, becomes one of the more memorable, euphoric sections on the album.
While the loud, thunderous drums and huge choruses are certainly a highlight, the dreamier sections leading into these big moments are just as strong, and some tend to even have more lasting value. Subdued track at the halfway point, “Alaskans,” has come to be one of my favorites on the entire album, with Vernon’s light, wispy falsetto climbing great heights on the register before slowly drifting back down to its starting point. It’s the first track on Repave to forgo a huge dynamic shift, and the dreamy reverb layered onto Vernon’s voice creates an interesting effect of distance, contrasting well with the track’s up-close-and-personal feel. “Keel” takes an intriguing turn as well by offering an almost drone-like composition, where many of Repave’s previously established songwriting conventions are thrown out the window in favor of a more introspective atmosphere of variable noise.
I suppose you could technically label Volcano Choir as a side project, since it hasn’t quite reached the heights of many of the musicians’ ongoing acts, but doing that would rhetorically dismiss much of the talent that went into creating Repave. If Justin Vernon had never made a huge splash with his previous band, Volcano Choir would still definitely rise to the top of the crowded indie community, which speaks to the band’s potential to match its members’ predecessors and become more than just a mere time-waster. At the same time, though, a cursory glance at the often scatterbrained lyrics, with references to keif and having sexual relations with the Parliament building, could suggest that, perhaps, Vernon’s other project could be just that—something fun to do on the side. Whatever the true intentions, I can’t deny the strength of Repave, and its ability to keep me interested throughout multiple listens certainly elevates it above the title of a simple side project. There are many that claim Vernon can do no wrong, and Repave easily keeps that impressive streak alive.