Review: Vacilando – While They Were Dancing

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One could call Vacilando a vanity project given its players and their resources if it weren’t for their debut LP, While They Were Dancing, being so affecting. Featuring the executive team of Portland, Oregon’s Fluff & Gravy Records, Vacilando is anchored by John Shepski, Juliana and Chad Lanning, this trio creating a six-song suite of creeping autumnal chill.

Sitting on the front porch there with the screen door
Waiting for a car
Listening to blood flow from my head
Straight down to my shoes

Equal parts mood piece and character sketch, Shepski’s songs blend the realism of Raymond Carver with the poetic brevity of Lydia Davis, adding in scrambled AM frequencies to disrupt any linear narrative belonging to the band’s atmospheric songs. Add to the mix gothic touches from contributors Sharon Cannon (violin) and Jason Montgomery (pedal steel) and While They Were Dancing expands upon the darker recesses of mid- to late-era REM. From the opening invocation of the sputtering “Down All Day” to the twinkling closer “Sleep,” While They Were Dancing is a funhouse ride of dark turns and convergent sounds.

Amidst the countrified “Everyone She Talks About,” the admonishing “Circles” and crashing “The Ocean, While You Sleep,” Vacilando transforms the Patti Page / Patsy Cline classic “Tennessee Waltz” into a drunken remembrance thanks to Shepski’s Sunday morning delivery and Cannon and Montgomery’s instrumentation. Never feeling off-kilter, “Tennessee Waltz” adds to the pathos of While They Were Dancing and its expansive songs that are wisely given time to seep into your soul before breaking your heart.

Stream While They Were Dancing below and purchase the album on vinyl, CD and digital formats via Fluff and Gravy Records.

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