By: Jeremy Scott
Atlanta’s Lunar Vacation delivers on the promise of their name with their sophomore EP, “Artificial Flavors”. The album is rich with spacey, poolside, summer vibes that would be the perfect soundtrack for a moon base resort. Throughout listening to the album, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was listening to something I had heard before, while at the same time feeling that it was something altogether new. “Artificial Flavors” would not be out of place in a summer time mixtape from the 60’s or 70’s. That being said, the album is not derivative or pastiche. It offers a fresh take on its genre that is as refreshing as I’m sure the juice box on the album cover would be in the summer Georgia heat.
The highlight of the album for me is the opening track, “Daytime”. The sample at the beginning of the track reminds one of a teleportation sound effect from a sci-fi B film, which is fitting since it transports you directly into the opening groove of the song. The synth gives an atmospheric and spacey vibe while the rest of the instrumentation grounds the track in a solid funky groove. The vocals are soft, mellow and full of longing. The song has tangible momentum as the emotional intensity builds through out the track. The lyrics speak of the frustration that comes from being stuck in a relationship where there’s a lack of depth and sincerity, and of the frustration with wishing that someone would appreciate the fleeting beauty of the present moment. The rest of the album maintains the vintage mellow melancholy heard in “Daytime”. “Slowdown” and “The Basement” introduce some folk and bluegrass elements that are effective in maintaining the sincere, heartfelt tone of the album.
If you read the lyrics to all four of the tracks on “Artificial Flavors”, it is clear that this album is an attempt to understand just what led the writer’s former lover to live such an unexamined and artificial life. It is so hard to “make sense of a situation from one side” and that frustration of never knowing what is really going on in someone else’s head can be defeating and demoralizing. Your heart aches for the writer in “Slowdown” as she is trapped watching her lover be trapped in a depressive spiral as he’s stuck in bed watching “What’s Suggested”. Lines like “don’t you ever stop and think, that it’s all just meaningless” or “this undisputed chapter never ends,” reinforce the writer’s frustration and desperation.
These lyrics are poignant and nail down the feeling of being heartbroken over what could have been and feeling depressed for the insincerity of the world. I’m reminded of the grief stricken Holden Caufield in “The Catcher in the Rye” who is sick with sadness over the phoniness of the world and adult life. Nothing points out the artificiality of the world better than being sick with grief over what could have been. In that way, “Artificial Flavors” is just as appropriate and intelligent of a title for the content of this album, as Lunar Vacation is for describing the tones and vibe of this band’s music. “Artificial Flavors” fits well into the trend that I’ve noticed in contemporary indie music. The instrumentation is nostalgic, recalling a time when everything was better and nothing hurt, while the lyrics lay down a melancholic foundation that brings the songs back to Earth. In a way, isn’t that a perfect description of the Millennial experience?
I highly recommend checking out “Artificial Flavors” and Lunar Vacation. The album and this group have a lot of potential, with an undeniable appeal that will leave you longing for more.