For Londoner Tom Vek, it has been quite a journey from his debut album We Have Sound back in 2005. Back then he was riding the wave of the garage rock revival and the emerging indie scene. A lone wolf in the proverbial jungle, Vek was known for his punchy form of indie rock, with a knack for hooks. Vek’s 2011 release Leisure Seizure saw him expand his range and his music was much more electronically focused. Vek incorporated different samples in his songs that often were the foundation. For the most part these differences paid dividends, but there were moments where it sounded like he was still experimenting with this new sound.
Luck follows on from the previous album with its electronic disposition. This time around Vek understands how to use these elements to harness a sound that has a stronger sense of identity. Possibly the best album of the three, Luck takes what he has a learned and transforms it into an album that is less about experimenting and more about crafting a sound that is fully established in its electronic sound world.
The opener “How Am I Meant to Know”, deals with Vek’s frustrations of feeling guilty. Musically, the track, hinges on the repeated phrase “How Am I Meant To Know”. This is made up of a modified low vocal and higher pitch voiced which creates a robotic mantra. The song opens out near the end in terms of dynamics and intensity. The title track of the album “Sherman (Animals In the Jungle)” follows on from this and although it doesn’t immediately hit you, over time its groove and hook become infectious.
“Broke” is a track that really breaks new ground for Tom Vek and one that opens new doors for him as a songwriter. It is the best song on the album and possibly one of his best to date. As a track it is centered around a riff that is played throughout. This may sound like overkill, but the wonderful pacing and its development make for a track that is continuoisly reinventing itself. Vek leaves space for the song to grow and gradually builds upon a single idea. It’s a superb track that highlights how Vek can mould a song that constantly changes shape but never fully sets.
“The Girl You Wouldn’t Leave for An Other Girl” is the albums only softer moment . It is a genuinely touching track that showcases Veks vulnerability. The instrumentation is simple, but achingly beautiful, with two guitars carrying the song from the opening moments to the last. This is a side of Vek we have rarely seen, with the use of one phrase he displays and array of emotional states
“A Mistake” immediately brings us back to what we know from Vek. It really flexes its muscles with a distorted bass synth that growls underneath a sharp guitar line. Inside this brash exterior, is a chorus of ringing melodies and a genuinely catchy refrain. The bridge takes a darker turn before returning to the chorus that is all the more satisfying because of it. “You’ll Stay” is a much more laid back track, one that grooves seamlessly. The verse is quite light in terms of texture, but the chorus is dense with more synths and bells being added to the mix. The tracks final stanza showcases how Vek knows when to let the music speak for itself.
The final track “Let’s Pray” starts with a sample that rings like alarm bells. It is reminiscent of American contemporary composer Tristan Perich in terms of its cyclical nature. Vek begins each line with “Let’s Pray” bringing a certain humour and irony to the lyrics. It keeps you listening through the verse, then in the chorus he hails “Let’s Pray to All of the Gods”. There are undertones hear of Vek’s stance on reverence and religion. Lyrics like “Let’s pray they all have a point, let’s pray that one of them is real, let’s pray they’re not offendable”. Vek smartly uses, let’s pray as caveat to dissect the ritual.
Vek strikes gold with Luck, it is an album that is not only flawlessly produced, but one that is wonderfully crafted. Each song is tendered to with great care, nothing feels artificial or oversaturated. It’s not that stylistically Vek has drastically changed anything, rather he has honed in on the essence of his sound. It is undeniably electronic, but he hasn’t lost his Indie sensibilities. “Sherman” has its roots in Indie rock with “You’ll Stay” being constructed with an electronic foundation. Instead of this causing friction between ideas it forges a unique bond that makes it hard to separate. The moments that show Vek tweaking his formula are the ones that show how much he has progressed as songwriter. Vek shows the prowess of a veteran musician beyond his years. Small touches make the bigger picture and with Luck, Vek has created a vivid image that is as pleasing as it is structurally as it is aesthetically.