Vintage Trouble: Chapter II EP Review

Who would have guessed that Amy Winehouse and The Weeknd would be cited as influences on a new Vintage Trouble release? The concept may seem odd at first, but when you take a moment to think about it, it’s not so wild—after all, this is the band that channeled James Brown in early live performances and has made the vintage-with-an-edge style work for them for several years. Even so, Vintage Trouble’s latest EP Chapter II, out last month, is vastly different from anything the band has released before, taking several calculated risks that likely won’t resonate with every fan. Which is exactly why the band also made an acoustic version of the same set of songs, a decision that began as a gesture to loyal fans and transformed during the recording process into an entirely different creative venture.

The new musical direction is immediately apparent from the first few bars of EP opener “Do Me Right,” in which Rick Barrio Dill’s funky bass lines set an energetic, dance-friendly tone that’s thoughtfully accented by guitarist Nalle Colt and cemented by drummer Richard Danielson. The smaller musical details that appear on the single “Can’t Stop Rollin’” and throughout the five-track EP are the result of another significant change for Vintage Trouble, as this collection represents the first time the band traded its traditional live recording process for individual in-studio tracking. Though this new strategy means the songs don’t have the same immediacy as 2011’s The Bomb Shelter Sessions or the band’s most recent full-length album from 2015, 1 Hopeful Rd., it does pave the way for in-studio experimentation, heard especially in the genre-hopping “Crystal Clarity,” which is perhaps even more rich in its acoustic iteration than its studio introduction. Once the band members grasped the opportunities available to them, they jumped in headfirst, with Ty Taylor’s buttery-smooth vocals bringing everything together—a sonic bridge between the old and the new. Each track shows the band excitedly embracing the time and technology at their disposal, giving the acoustic “The Battle’s End” the feel of a raw protest song and essentially creating five covers that sound like brand-new songs, rather than toned-down versions of the still-new originals (as was the initial concept).

Like Vintage Trouble’s earlier material, Chapter II simultaneously operates in the modern and more traditional pop and rhythm and blues styles, but it’s also a daring move for a band that has cultivated a distinct style and commands a loyal fan base. Then again, what’s the point of continuing to create music without taking risks? The thoughtful execution of this EP makes this risk feel earned, and though some listeners may not love the results in the same way they enjoy popular Vintage Trouble songs like “Blues Hand Me Down” or “Gracefully,” Chapter II is refreshing, a valuable addition to the band’s growing cannon that opens doors for the years ahead.

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Can’t Stop Rollin’
– Crystal Clarity

The Big Hit

– Can’t Stop Rollin’

Review by Meghan Roos

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