Formed in 2005, Volcano Choir is an indie rock band composed of multiple musicians including lead-singer Justin Vernon along with former members of the band Collections of Colonies of Bees. Vernon is best known as the frontman of the indie-sensation band Bon Iver. Unlike Bon Iver, whose music gives off a gloomy vibe, Volcano Choir’s music seems to be its uplifting counterpart, but still possesses a melancholic undertone. In 2013, the group released their second studio album, titled Repave. This album is a smart mixture of acoustics and electronic instrumentals that work to comfort. To best describe this album I must set a scene. Imagine you’re at your favorite place to relax on a night late in the Summer season. Whether that be sitting on the beach at night, around a bonfire, or driving down a forested road with the windows down – this is what you would be (or should be) listening to.
The album opens with “Tiderays” which starts off soft and floating; a slow build-up to the end of the song which adds a strong kick. There is a large variety of sounds overlapping on this track, which can be said about a majority of songs on this album. The following track, “Acetate,” picks up quicker than its predecessor. The drums and keys mix well and sound crisp on this track with Vernon’s vocals overtop of them. He repeats phrases such as “shout it / say it louder now,” which make you want to follow his commands because of how uplifting it sounds.
The soothing opening cords of “Comrade” quickly turn to something new with the sudden pick-up and vocals added early on. This track seems to change tempo quite a bit, with magnificence staying persistent throughout. At one point you hear what almost sounds like tiny voices talking to you from the background. These voices switch back to Vernon’s singing, which then changes again to the ending vocals that are distorted. These deep, distorted vocals are hard to understand, but it adds another effective layer to the song. Another strong track follows with “Byegone” which tells a mysterious story of loss and marijuana. Throughout the track you can tell that it’s building up to something special – the hard-hitting climax of the beat and Vernon’s shouts echoing “set sail.” These make for a truly empowering tune.
“Alaskans” starts slow and simply with a guitar playing and Vernon reminiscing on the past. A story of lost love is apparent as he sings “But the sutra didn’t suit ya that one day in the park / I’m talking about it / talking real love / I wanna re-up on that love.” The theme of love carries over onto the next song “Dancepack,” which is more upbeat. It starts soft, again with a guitar, and is then joined all at once by a tambourine, drum, and vocals. “Take note / there’s still a hole in your heart,” Vernon chants emotionally.
A darker vibe is taken with “Keel” as it opens with Vernon’s haunting voice proclaiming that “the prophet’s here.” This song has an edge to it that none of the previous songs share. This is not bad; it’s almost refreshing. The slight creepiness that this song holds makes it the darkest on the album. The final track “Almanac” is the weakest point of the project in my opinion. It is by no means a bad song, it’s just not on the same level as the others. It does have a stronger end than it does beginning, however, where it sounds like an entirely different song.
Justin Vernon and his bandmates really did well to create something special. All-around Repave is a beautiful project with few low points. Its lyrics appear unconnected but work to piece together an enigmatic story. The music works to comfort and uplift the spirits of its listeners. And whether you’re at your favorite spot on a summer night or sitting at home in the winter – you’ll be able to appreciate the magic of Repave.