CAST OF CHARACTERS Chris Moulton stands at the center of Vanityites.
He might be a crazy motherfucker (well, almost definitely), but Chris Moulton can sing and write songs like very few people, locally or anywhere. He fronts his third band now, Vanityites, a logical continuation of In the Arms of Providence and Cambiata, becoming less heavy and more focused as he, well, not matures necessarily, but maybe gets more refined.
The four-song Once Again to Lillith the band release this week is dynamic and demands your attention, full of big vocals, dramatic turns, and artful lyrics, but it's also at times very accessible and has more than one singalong chorus you can easily get behind. "I am the Liquor" is the single you've likely heard by now and you shouldn't be disappointed that it's the best song here: Choruses with that kind of punch don't grow on trees. "Hey!" Moulton yells at you, as Gabrielle Raymond (Anna's Ghost) ooh-oohs in the background, "I feel your summer of nostalgia creeping in."
It's never quite wild abandon, though. There is a restraint like they've got the song on a yoke, with the late-song cycling keyboard building tension until the floodgates completely open and there is one last crashing chorus that is a heart pouring out. Hard not to get excited about that.
The other three songs aren't too shabby, either. The opening "Drowning Man" is more pop rock than you might expect, the initial confirmation that Moulton has harnessed his vocals and dialed the drama down to focus on hitting every note and being expressive, rather than going overboard on every single line. After the second chorus — "I hold onto those closest to me/I drag them to black depths of the sea" — a ragged and distorted guitar line from old Cambiata mate Mike Caminiti mimics Moulton's panicked yells.
"Lillith" is like an '80s ballad, Moulton aping Simon LeBon before a crunchy low end enters and it's more like '60s Grease-pop: "I never loved you more/Than when I walked away from you." On "Nil if by Mouth," Moulton's opening big inhalation shows him using his breathing like no one around here since Dave Gutter; the song meanders like a band that's utterly confident in taking their time.
Members have already been swapped out since the record's recording (Ian Riley on bass and Erin Libby on drums for Stan and Chris Dzengelewski) and Moulton's projects aren't known for their longevity, but if this one sticks, it could be a pretty great thing.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
ONCE MORE TO LILLITH | Released by Vanityites | with Foam Castles + Dean Ford + Jeff Beam + Sunset Hearts | at the Empire, in Portland | an Equality Maine benefit | Oct 27 | soundcloud.com/vanityites