CHAD VANGAALEN – Diaper Island
reviewed by Dan Chapman

Chad VanGaalen, among the premier songwriters on Sub Pop Records, recently emerged from his home in Calgary to grace us with his latest bunch of off-kilter indie music.  Personally, I’m happy he didn’t keep these songs to himself.

From beginning to end, Diaper Island carves a guitar-driven path of reserved jams and refined songwriting. Likening VanGaalen’s vocal quality to that of Fleet Foxes‘ Robin Pecknold, a retro vibe lies under many of the tracks and allots reservation in the stead of busy instrumental sections. Sometimes its a single guitar lick that carries a song (“Peace On The Rise”), or an enamoring swell of  harmonies (“Wandering Spirits”). His ability to augment subtle elements in his music creates a fresh and compelling style of indie rock. The most pressing of these comes midway through the album with a heartwrenching acoustic ballad called “Sara.” VanGaalen reaches the lovliest peak of his writing ability during the chorus, in which the phrase “Sara, wake me up when you’re home” resonates in a mess of gorgeous harmonies. It was stuck in my head for three days, and I wasn’t bothered.

There’s a reason why this odd-ball Canadian has the full backing support of Sub Pop Records: he writes really good songs. With Diaper Island, VanGaalen slates a highly refined work that, apart from a few fantastic tunes, can also be appreciated for it’s cohesive nature as an album. If your a fan of old Death Cab For Cutie stuff, definitely give this record a spin.

(Sub Pop Records, 2013 Fourth Avenue, Third Floor, Seattle, WA 98121)

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