'I wanna empty my calendar days / Let the feeling just spark it / starting a change / being less guarded," Ken Vasoli, the front man of local band Vacationer, declared to begin a show Saturday night at a packed Union Transfer, where their chill rock vibe had more people than usual comfortable with dancing through an entire concert.
On "The Wild Life" from Relief, the xylophone notes, keys, trilling guitar, and percussion - alternating between a drum kit and bongos - brought the island feel that's just one part of the band's self-proclaimed nu-hula sound. Vasoli says he wants Vacationer to be "an escapism that sort of transforms people to another place." With an illuminated globe on stage, we all felt the element of relaxation, of getting away, that's vital to their music.
In regard to soothing vibes, it's no wonder Beach House is an influence, as evidenced on "Shining" (Relief), where low-key, transcendental effects lived alongside a smooth, danceable electronic feel (Vasoli says LCD Soundsystem and Four Tet are also influences) and pleasantly weighted, shifting guitar notes.
Briefly on two tracks, Vasoli's vocals and the thumping percussion recall Vampire Weekend, but it's the lushness of Vacationer's sound and Vasoli's range and relaxed delivery that sets them apart. That lushness - aided by instrument looping/"from-scratch sampling," an eclectic array of actual samples, and putting a record crackle on some tracks - provides the band with one of its most interesting comparisons: the feel and sound of '70s productions by the likes of Billy Paul and Marvin Gaye.
That really comes through on "I Want You to Stay," its rhythmic funk heightened by angelic keys and a range of effects - seemingly flute, strings, and chimes - trying to match the sublime grandeur of Vasoli's vocals.
It's no wonder Vasoli says he and his bandmates have been enamored of the production style of Gaye and Curtis Mayfield or that he is heavily influenced by the latter, along with Beach House's Victoria Legrand.
Vasoli's emulation of singers who "take the stress out of music," as he puts it, came through on "Everyone Knows" from 2012's Gone. In addition to that '70s production feel, there was another element evident: a lush hip-hop backing that someone could drop bars over.
That hip-hop feel was also present in the joyously upbeat "Trip" (Gone), which featured a nice stutter beat, along with more dreamy, sharp effects that speak to their transcendental side. The surreal quality in "Good as New" (Gone), for instance, helped bring us all to another state. And that's exactly what Vasoli meant with that "being less guarded" line.