Vagabon say that they play things intended to make us sad, but what they neglect to mention is they’re playing things that’ll make us a little bitter and a little contented, too; they’ll access our whole range of emotions. The Brooklyn indie folk group has an emotionally charged sound that shifts subtly from sedated to manic, and their debut EP, Persian Garden, is full of upheaval and change.
The six-song record is, in a word, lush. Singer Laetitia Tamko’s voice is the standout feature of the setup on first listen, reverberating above the instrumentation hauntingly with just the slightest waver. But beyond the vocals are layers of ringing sound, smooth clean arpeggios and guitar parts that pull in and out of distortion. The record is packed with small, controlled explosions—electric squeals and walls of mangled noise—that briefly rupture an otherwise smooth plane and rub up against the vocals for an affecting contrast. Meanwhile, the range of sounds Vagabon incorporates is vast, including a lap steel guitar, banjos, and violin, all never too obvious, half-hidden in the woodwork of the music. It’s a moving combination, especially given the themes in the lyrics, which make reference to an ambivalence toward someone who’s moved away. Over muted fingerpicking we can hear, “Freddy, come back / I know you love where you are, but I think I changed my mind.” It’s simple but loaded lines like these that make a big dent.