Features | Awards

The Second Annual Voxtrot Award for Killing It Dangerously Hard with Pre-Debut EPs

By Brian Riewer | 15 December 2011

nyc stuff and nyc bags EP
(R&S; 2011)

Last year staffer Chris Molnar correctly predicted the swift downfall of Twin Sister, as their full-length In Heaven ended up as disappointing as last year’s EP Color Your Life was impressive. They were victims of the “Voxtrot Curse,” a theory of fringe criticism that suggests a band who shows an uncanny knack for fresh, polished abilities with their short preview material will inevitably disappoint with their subsequent full-length debut. Washed Out, the Cool Kids, Cults, and jj have all been subject to it in recent memory, with varying degrees of actual disappointment in subsequent material for each.

So whose career do I speculate will spiral off into a tailspin of professional impotence and hegemonic disinterest following some glint of hope in their debut material? I hate to say it, but Vondelpark is looking pretty cursed following the release of their two debut EPs this year. I specifically loved nyc stuff and nyc bags for its gorgeous textures, the glimmering guitars echoing off cave walls, the stunted and fragile snapping and clicking percussion setting off the economy of vocals and computer-generated brass sections in a way that dissolves everything down into one dreary, inviting brew. It’s a release which manages somewhere in its formula to be more than the sum of its parts, to be somehow more mystifyingly beautiful than its basic ingredients.

Which may sound good—and is, at least for the sake of nyc stuff and nyc bags_—but accentuates the fact that _nyc stuff was blessed with a bit of alchemy which Vondelpark would need to somehow conjure again for a full-length. Where things work in an almost preternatural manner across this EP, imagining the same parts missing their marks consistently as this band tries to catch lightning in a jar again is not much of a stretch. Floaty vibes direct its dozy attitude but could believably be revisited with a sheen of ambient haze, a la Washed Out’s Within and Without (2011). “TV” is only a few degrees away from a shitty knock-off of Saint Etienne, while “Feat B” is a tweak or two off from counterfeit Air. “Camel” and “Hipbone” are the two superstars of this release, but contain almost nothing in the way of vocals—the former’s are sparse but indecipherable, the latter’s consisting of “You’ve got it going for you / I’ll do anything for you / Ohhh.” Throw in a few requisite filler tracks to make this a full-length, and the path from stunning EP to garbage debut seems almost an inevitability. Vondelpark’s die certainly hasn’t been cast yet, but they’d do well to address these concerns on their next record lest they end up victims as Twin Sister did.