Ukraine band VAGABOND SPECTER is a fairly new band, formed by and revolving around the talents of vocalist vocalist Pablo Specter and instrumentalist Yuriy Smalius. This formative duo have since been joined by bassist Egor Gavrilenko and drummer Alex Okremov, and the band have more recently honed their craft live in Ukraine. “Mirrors” is their debut album, and was released at the end of January 2017.
The type of music explored by this band is one that I’m not all that accustomed to cover, as their chosen style of music is what can best be described as radio-friendly pop/rock. Gentle guitars and careful keyboard arrangements dominate, and the calm, laid-back lead vocals of Specter combines with the instrumentation to create careful, laid-back atmospheres. Smooth and elegant music, to the point of being detached, and in essence perfectly suited for FM radio. At times more of an edge are added to the proceedings, in some cases with the end result that the band sounds like a polished, toned down version of a band similar to Garbage. Which, in my book at least, is a compliment. On a couple of occasions the band takes on more of a careful, melancholic synth pop vibe not miles away from later day a-ha. They also play around with the use of a hard, jazz-tinged bass on a couple of tracks, although I’m still on the bench on whether this is successful or not.
This is pleasantly engaging music on many levels, the kind of music I’d expect to hear from any mainstream FM channel when the days gets brighter, spring is in the air and summer is beckoning. There is a but here however, and that boils down to nationality. Not because this band hails from Ukraine per se, but because it is an undeniable fact that the lead vocals have an accent. Not a stark and alienating one, but one with enough character for someone familiar with the English language to notice that something is slightly off kilter. In the harsh climate of the music business, this aspect of the material is detrimental. A few details in the mix and production have gone slightly awry too, nothing massive but when the arrangements gets busy there are some occasionally some sharp sounds that comes across like noise, at least when you listen to this album with headphones.
Vagabond Specter have a good ear for pleasant melodies and do know their way around creating material at times very well suited for FM radio play. In my view they do lack some finer details that manage to elevate their material above what one expect from this type of music though, and at least as seen from my point of view I’m not certain if this is an album that will manage to inspire an audience beyond their local scene. A fine specimen of radio-friendly pop/rock, but not a production that managed to make an emotional impact with me.
My rating: 60/100
Half a Billion Miles; She’s a Bird; Dancing in the Light; Scars As Notes; Guru; Joshua; So Complicated; Suitcase Full of Dreams; Running; Wait for You; Late Night Crawling