Perennial jam-band Virginia Coalition (VaCo) has found a comfortable and mid-tempo groove on its latest album Home This Year. The band, which consists of singer Andrew Poliakoff, bassist Jarret Nicolay and guitarist Paul Ottinge, has reduced in numbers over the years. A band which started as five is now down to three and despite this adversity has consistently honed their craft, so much so, that the VaCo of 2008 sounds almost nothing like the VaCo circa 2005. While Poliakoff’s powerhouse vocals remain the band’s strongest suit, it’s the songwriting that comes up a bit short. Sure the album is polished, pristine and mildly engaging, but as an album there’s nothing decidedly epic or intense about it.
For a band who has spent a career packing concert halls and putting on frenetic live performances, Home This Year is a decidedly mellow and contemplative album. This isnt the kind of disc to make you get up and dance, nor does it possess the kind of hard-charging rockers they’ve created in the past. The best songs are the aforementioned title track and the breezy “Lately,” but after ten tracks, it becomes more of the same and everything blends together. As a VaCo fan this is disappointing and upsetting. The band credits fatherhood and marriage for mellowing their ways and while no one can fault the group for such honorable decisions, its worth considering if the band was still single and younger, if the album would be as mellow and such a marked departure.
For all its shortcomings, in a decade long career the band rarely disappoints and there are a few upper echelon tracks here. Credit producer Marshall Altman (Matt Nathanson, Farmer, etc.) for pushing all the right buttons and forcing the band to carve an interesting path. Is it worth the purchase? Depends how you look at music. Is an album worth it for five or six good songs? If so, pick it up, and at the very least, see this band live. They will not disappoint.
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