There are bands like Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Vagabonds, whose music is so personal, so intimate, that it eclipses these other purposes for the listener, and the album becomes almost memoir-esque. “I Don’t Know What To Do Now,” the band’s first full-length, is singer-songwriter Luke Dean’s story, a memory book stuffed full of black and white photos, of powerful quotes, of artifacts of a life survived.
The album starts with ‘A Memory,’ in which Dean quite literally recounts a moment in his life as if reading an excerpt from his diary, but quickly moves into ‘A Self Fulfilling Prophecy,’ a song whose mood and melody transports the listener to this scene. Here, gentle guitars cradle Dean’s subdued voice while a lonely trumpet floats above them. toward the end of the album, a song like ‘Nineveh’ offers the counterpoint; Dean screams, “I close my eyes and I see violence,” above tumbling drums during a tense verse, then repeats, “I am darker than you think,” as his guitar paces back and forth like a caged tiger. But on most of I Don’t Know What To Do Now, Dean sets his scenes using only his voice and his Telecaster. When a quiet beat swells at the end of ‘Paralysis,’ when a tambourine shivers on ‘Ambulance (I Am Nothing),’ it’s easy not to notice. This is because Dean’s delicate melodies and brave confessions possess enough weight. His songs are about heavy subjects: depression and self-care and suicide—and, of course, courage and redemption. Continue reading »