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Spins: Vanishing Shores • “Maps”

| September 13, 2021 | 0 Comments

Vanishing Shores

Maps

(independent)

Vanishing Shores has made a swift ascent toward their summit of song. Kevin Bianchi established a compelling sonic identity for the group with 2018’s self-titled debut EP, but he strides forward with this full-length release. Maps finds Bianchi’s artistry expanding while offering a more focused and personal portrait. Elements of Laurel Canyon pop craftsmanship remain evident, but fare like “Long Gone” and “First Light” finds the songwriter digging deep and letting emotion pour through his voice in courageous and beautiful acts of purification and communion.

As the album’s title implies, these songs are connected by their sense of life in transit during a restless journey. Maps isn’t a story about arriving, and few conclusions are drawn. Songs like “City by the Sea,” with its crashing Coldplay chords and sparkling sky-high chorus, are more akin to snapshots out the window of blurred landscape in motion and life itself whizzing past. The title cut “Maps” is cut from similar cloth thematically, ringing with cinematic reverb and beatific harmonies. “Love is always moving in the underground,” sings Bianchi, underpinned by roots-rock twang and Eric Van Horn’s bedrock bass. These songs’ ambiguity and frayed edges help them connect with anyone who feels swept up and a bit out of control – which is just about everybody. These are also songs of the heart and songs of perseverance. Bianchi boldly stares down the darkness, but he’s also not too jaded to embrace the light. It’s a compelling and relatable balance.

In the process, Vanishing Shores raise the roof with stirring and ambitious rock-pop arrangements. The enveloping hum that opens “Road Less Traveled” erupts into a galloping surge that taps the acoustic alt-pop of the Alarm circa Eye of the Hurricane, with further echoes of Big Country’s Celtic spirit, Springsteen’s stadium anthems, and Cheap Trick’s power-pop. “I believe in hope unseen,” sings Bianchi, even while haunted by unnamed ghosts.

Justin Rice’s thundering tom-toms anchor “Fix Me,” The song is brightened by shimmering harmony between Bianchi and Katie Egan. The song’s swooning alt-pop offers an unflinching description of a relationship on the ropes and bound for the canvas. The emotion is carried with sublime harmonies and Brian Bianchi’s titanic guitars, hinting at the Icicle Works and Mighty Lemon Drops. The song’s urgent bridge reflects the primal catharsis of Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love.”

The sound of “Long Gone” is deconstructed and isolated. Bianchi’s restrained piano is punctuated by glorious orchestration and a yearning vocal that pushes toward the stars, longing for redemption. The minimalist approach and towering melody recall the Lassie Foundation circa Pacifico fused with latter-day Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Brian Bianchi’s chiming guitars lead the way again during “Believe (Every Band I Know),” a song of encouragement to kindred spirits. “We’re all lost in the same dream,” sings Kevin Bianchi to anyone who ever joined an indie rock band and struggled against the odds to make a connection.

“Days” offers a shot of crunchy power-pop encouragement with whiffs of Fountains of Wayne’s and Weezer’s arena-sized pop hooks and a cheeky “ba-ba-ba” vocal lifted from the Beach Boys via Lindsey Buckingham. “You and I will make it to the dawn,” sing Bianchi and Egan in mutual support, accompanied by sinewy space-pop countermelodies.

“First Light” offers a powerful conclusion to the album’s arc, drawing upon intense personal experience with conflicting elements of comfort and loss. The song will strike a chord with anyone who has trusted a higher power to carry someone into a better place beyond pain. Melancholy strings and solemn piano create a sacred space for Bianchi’s fond remembrance as he gathers the strength the carry on without a loved one. “No love is ever gone, no race is ever run,” he sings. “First light will always come.” The song’s spacious and ambient coda suggests the triumph of a soul shedding the mortal coil and making its final flight toward eternal glory. It’s undeniably evocative and moving.

– Jeff Elbel

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Category: Featured, Spins

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