It’s a common occurrence in today’s music landscape that a band releases a debut single that’s instantly catchy, warrants repeat plays and gets you excited for the full length. When the album finally comes, it’s not uncommon for the single to remain the far-away stand-out track. When Wampire released “The Hearse” a few months back, I was instantly drawn in; the song possesses a galloping quality, an unstoppable groove and a delightfully playful keyboard line – “The Hearse” is an apt name for it, but this one is undercover as a getaway car, rather than a slow-moving corpse carrier.
“The Hearse” is the perfect lead off song, as it gives the album momentum instantly, but I was surprised when the second song, “Orchards,” did not pick up where it left off, instead bringing down the energy completely. Hearing the rest of their debut album, Curiosity, I was disappointed to find that there are no songs that instantly grab the attention the way “The Hearse” does; most of the songs here are mid-tempo and take a less punchy approach. However, multiple spins of the album start to reveal the layers and subtlety to many of the songs that are elusive at first; the songs are ostensibly lo-fi, but beneath the low grade drum and vocal quality is plenty of richness. Bringing in fellow Portlander and Unknown Mortal Orchestra member Jacob Portrait surely helped them achieve this.
As evidenced by the band’s name and album cover, the duo aren’t trying to be particularly cool or modern, they’re happy to goof it up a bit with vampy keyboard and organs, but once you start to meet their wavelength there’s plenty of romance on this record; both in terms of the lyrics and in terms of emulating seductive classic rock sounds. The simplistic bass and drums hold all these songs together, while the varied use of synths and organs loom large in the background, allowing the keyboards and sweet vocals work some magic, which provides us a with a set of nine different but of-a-piece tracks.
The Napoleon Dynamite quality of the front cover is consistent in the music; it’s not hard to picture either of the guys on the cover awkwardly slow dancing to “Magic Light” at a high school dance, or singing “Trains” in an attempt to woo the object of their heart’s desire. And when they want to rock, they can do that just as easily too, as shown by the squalling “Giants” or the bouncy “I Can’t See Why.” Curiosity is just over half an hour in length, with none of the songs outstaying their welcome. It may not be the most instantly appealing of albums, but with a little time it proves itself to be more than its title suggests.