The Starting Line’s Kenny Vasoli has never been afraid to explore non-pop-punk vistas. Exhibit A: the shapeshifting rock outfit Person L. Exhibit B: his new project, Vacationer, and their full-length debut, Gone. (Don’t be fooled by the secrecy surrounding the band—that’s definitely him singing.) The latter focuses on textured indie pop buoyed by tropical percussion, soulful crooning, quirky samples and atmospheric keyboards that’s closer in spirit (and sound) to Vampire Weekend (“Dreamlike”), Broken Bells (“Great Love”) and Grizzly Bear (“Farther”).
Still, Gone isn’t beholden to any one band or genre as an influence. “Everyone Knows” is a throwback to vintage soul and R&B, courtesy of sepia-toned piano, rumbling bass and sighing harmonies; head-nodding hip-hop grooves permeate “Good As New”; and the cinematic, fantastical “Trip” boasts bewitching horns, woodwind and percussion. As a singer, Vasoli handles these stylistic shifts with ease; in fact, his gorgeous vocal performances enhance these songs more than any instrumental quirks. On the tender “Having It All”—a lush tune conjuring OK Computer-era Radiohead—he delicately intones, “Having it all is like having a dream/Having it all, so you can have/You can have me.” The ache is palpable.
In a perfect world, people would view Vacationer on their own terms, and not just view it as “a side project from that guy in the Starting Line.” Considering Gone anything but an adventurous, forward-thinking collection does its music and the band a great disservice.