Vinyl Floor is a self-described 3-piece rock/pop band from Copenhagen, Denmark. Vinyl Floor and its record company Karmanian Records is composed of Daniel Pedersen, Rasmus Bruun, and Thomas Charlie Pedersen. Their second album, Peninsula, is scheduled for release on February 20th.
Peninsula is a bit of a concept album playing with the notions of utopias and dystopias. In the notes accompanying the complementary copy we received, the first six songs represent the “Utopia” A-side and the second set represents the “Dystopia” B-side of the album. In blending the two sides, some of the songs feature parallel stylings and lyrics to tie the album together into a unified whole.
Upon my first listen of Peninsula, I felt perhaps the album was a bit out of my comfort zone. While the band’s Facebook fanpage lists their genre as pop/rock/alternative, a space I usually embrace, the album sounded more like the classic rock or guitar rock genre. As a side note, I have been playing a lot of Rock Band lately and have been immersed in the rock anthems and power ballads of REO Speedwagon, Journey, and Damn Yankees. Perhaps my preliminary listening sessions with Peninsula were tainted by my Rock Band hangover? So I checked out some early reviews of the album, and my music reviewing colleagues squarely designated Vinyl Floor’s influences as The Cure and Coldplay.
The Cure? Coldplay?
On a hunch, I typed in the name of the band into Last.fm and the online music service popped up a single from Vinyl Floor’s previous release. I was a little surprised and checked the biography section which stated the band has “its roots primarily in the melodic and energetic 60s and likewise in the edgy rock of the 90s.” Ok, but I was still a bit puzzled. I wasn’t hearing these influences distinctly at all. So I went back to my notes and then back in for a few more listening sessions with the album.
Overall, I place the band’s sound as reminiscent to the guitar rock of the 1970s and 80s, so really somewhere between the 60s and 90s. Some songs strikingly recall bands like Electric Light Orchestra, The Scorpions, or even Styx. Considering the differences among these influences, perhaps Vinyl Floor’s sound is a little difficult to pinpoint.
Peninsula’s opening track, “Frames and Orchids” highlights a classic rock arrangement of electric guitars and violins. The instrumental is actually quite pretty, moving from a soft mellow melody to an edgier bridge. It has gusto, it has choral chanting, it has a similarity to 80s inspired rock ballads. It’s a great prelude to the album, hinting at the types of music we’ll hear throughout the rest of the album.
There are some standout songs on the album, but the reasons they stand out vary. “Ghost of England,” for example, features guitars and violins, but also horns and piano, and the whole melodic ensemble works to create the nostalgic mood set forth by the lyrics which long for an idealized England (“sitting in an English garden”) which is no more. The piano evokes to create that early 70s style in the song, and maybe here Vinyl Floor is influenced by the 90s rock style of a pianist like Ben Folds. The piano is hard at work again on the track “In the Air” (from the Dystopia B-side of the album). I imagined that if Ben Folds were to form a Danish guitar rock band, it might sound like this song. The lyrics, while not nearly so arch as clever as Folds’, do meditate on themes of lost love and nostalgia.
Peninsula is clearly a guitarist’s album, and the guitar-driven songs are the best gems on the album. The symphonic inclusion of classical strings and piano is a brilliant strategy in arrangement. The weakest part of Peninsula and perhaps of Vinyl Floor in general is the vocals. While the whole album has a guitar rock or hard rock vibe hailing from the 70s and 80s, the effect isn’t complete without a vocalist who can hit the higher ranges of notes necessary on the slow “power ballad” songs and even offer up some pitchiness to complement the edgier guitar playing found on tracks like “What Lies Ahead” and “Force You Through,” the latter of which verges a bit on thrash rock. In addition to range, the vocalist’s actual articulation of the lyrics is a bit fuzzy, and the words get lost in the sandy raspishness of his vocals on tracks like “Car in the Sky” and “Diverging Paths” which depend on strong vocals to succeed. The overall effect is an almost flattening of the songs which do feature spirit-raising guitar playing, but cannot be totally saved by a vocalist who is overextended.
Despite the weaknesses of the album, I think the band itself is a strong messenger of the rock/pop scene in Denmark. The experience of listening to and researching Peninsula has led me to a quick dip in the Danish rock scene seas and Vinyl Floor is a fine ambassador of what I have been hearing. The blending of genres, the wistful arrangements, the stirring guitar solos are all part of the fun in rock music that seems to be happening in Denmark as well as in its neighboring Scandinavian countries.
Artist: Vinyl Floor
Date: February 20, 2012
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