Lost On Purpose - Ashes
Record Label: Self Released
Record Date: June 23, 2011
Lost On Purpose is the one-man band of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Will VanderWyden. Ashes is the Ohio native and Los Angeles dweller’s seventh release. Critically acclaimed and bursting with musical integrity that has led to comparisons with the likes of Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver to mention a few, Lost On Purpose write songs of heartbreak and longing to the quiet acoustic backing that seems omnipresent in modern day indie. But, ignoring the hype, is this an essential release?
The answer is both yes and no. Within its eight tracks, Ashes has an almost even amount of high and low points. It starts off with “Nowhere Hard Enough”, basically what would happen if The National’s Matt Berninger decided to become a country singer. It’s the type of song that would work as a deterrent if you were a casual listener, and has nothing in common with the rest of the album, whether it’s the deep vocals or the somewhat over confident lyrics contrasting with the mostly soft vocals and fairly self deprecating and/or poetic lyrics that largely feature in the following seven tracks.
Next up is “No Self Destruction” a track that would have been a much more impressive opener. It’s a simple acoustic song that works perfectly. Vocally driven, it’s calm and relaxed and while not exactly re-inventing the wheel, it’s certainly a highlight. It’s followed by the much too brief “Costa Rica” which steers slightly off the path of the prevalent formula of the album with a fuzzy ambience enveloping the music. It’s very promising but it seems to end as soon as it starts.
“Villages” is almost too simple. Mainly acoustic, it’s ultimately forgettable and although there’s nothing technically wrong with it, it seems to be lacking a spark. “No More Pressure” is the best track on the release. Although it’s as simple as its predecessor, it’s atmospheric and a beautiful song. VanderWyden’s voice is at its strongest and most attractive, but it does leave you wishing that he would stick to the tone and range that he uses on this song, on the rest of the album.
“The Puzzle Border” is a return to the deep vocals. Sounding even more reminiscent of Berninger, it manages to work whilst being quite slow paced. Frustratingly, VanderWyden reactivates the soft vocals of “No More Pressure” for the last 20 seconds, almost to show what could have been. “Dubrovnik” is another experiment with vocals that is disappointing. The vocals cast a shadow over what could have been a decent track, but has been ruined by VanderWyden’s indecision about his voice.
The album closes with “Sails” which works well as a closing track. Multi layered, and aurally attractive, the track does its job and leaves you wanting more.
What we have here is a very frustrating album. VanderWyden is obviously able to write a good, even great song, with rich lyrics and attractive instrumentation, but the constant changing of vocal style is incredibly grating. As it’s mainly acoustic, vocals are a key ingredient to the album, but VanderWyden has almost used Ashes as a vocal experiment, this may be fine if it was a debut album, but on his seventh release, you can’t help but feel that he should have found his voice by now.