The Starting Line is not getting back together. Despite the fact that they play shows every once in a while (almost exclusively in or around Philly), there is no indication that they have plans to head into the studio anytime in the near or distant future. There is some good news, though.
Kenny Vasoli seems incapable of sitting still. He is constantly playing with other bands and starting side projects, like Vacationer. The weird thing, though is that it is very difficult to actually find out any information about Vacationer. There is a website, a Tumblr blog, a Facebook fan page, and a Soundcloud, but the only official source that actually has a bio or ‘about me’ is their iTunes profile. Two sentences: ‘…Philly … Kenny Vasoli …. Vacationer released Gone in 2012…’. Paradoxically, you can stream Gone in its entirety on Soundcloud (or at the end of this review). It is actually easier to just listen to Vacationer than it is to read what they are about, which shouldn’t be weird in 2013, but it still feels odd.
Gone is self-tagged as “nu-hula” on Soundcloud, which is apparently just modern music to chill to, as it conjures exactly zero images of the tropics. It is mostly just Vasoli’s familiar vocals, without the The Starting Line’s punk-pop urgency, backed by strings or synths and piano, punctuated with light drums, and always riding over a solid bass line.
There are songs that sound like the logical, if somewhat trippy, extension of the Starting Line. If Directions‘s “Island” is a summer morning, bright and full of energy, then Gone‘s “Good as New” is the evening, sitting by a campfire with good company. Nobody is dancing, but everybody is bobbing their head. Nobody is singing along, but by the second verse of “Trip”, everybody is “OOOooOOOh OOeeooOOh”ing along with the melody.
There are some odd sound effects in places, like the jungle noises on “Trip”, but they are mostly unobtrusive, and actually contribute to the ambiance. There is also some vintage filtering in the production, which adds to the live feeling of the record, keeping it mellow but still upbeat. Vacationer is The Starting Line without punk-pop, island music without the tropics, trip-hop without the hip-hop or drugs. Nu-hula, I guess.
Overall, I give Vacationer’s Gone a four out of five… chance of being my go-to album of the summer. You can stream the whole thing here. If you like what you hear, get it on iTunes.