Portland indie rock outfit, STRFKR’s newest release, Vault Vol. 1 is less of an album and more of a collection of demos and ideas pulled from the laptop of frontman Joshua Hodges. As its name would suggest, it’s the first in a series of similar releases, of which there will be three.
Calling most of these songs “demos” would be a bit of an overstatement, considering that most of the tracks are under two minutes, some even running for only around thirty seconds. These also don’t seem to be demos that the band would send to a producer to listen to before recording the final album. These are just ideas the Hodges wanted to jot down and keep track of for the most part. Most of the songs are subdued and relaxed, characteristic of the type of music someone would be noodling around with while they’re alone in their room messing around on their guitar and laptop. Some of the song names, like “Goofy Shit”, hint further to this scenario, seeing as that sounds like a filler name that would be given to a file just to remember it’s there.
Album opener “Long Time” could be mistaken for being a simple introduction to an album of fully realized songs, given its length and quality, and sounds like it was the natural choice for starting the tracklist. Most of the songs feature one or maybe two parts and few lyrics, often times a single line repeated throughout the song. Some song’s use of a drum machine, like “Basically”, seem to suggest that Hodges meant for the instrumentation to be developed extensively, perhaps using an acoustic kit.
Appearing a little over midway through the album, “Only Humans” is the obvious stand-out track, largely in part of its six minute run-time that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the length of the other tracks. Its instrumentation is still relatively sparse, featuring only acoustic guitar, piano, and vocals, as well as the occasional synth flourish. The harmonies that flutter in the background of the song sound almost ethereal, and mesh well with the spacey production of the track, which seems to follow the formula of the rest of the album: a simple chord progression and one repeated line of lyrics.
Despite not really being an “album”, per say, Vol. 1 is an interesting look into a band’s internal process of writing music and toying around with ideas. Most of the music here is enjoyable enough, even if it’s not quite long enough to realize its full potential. None of these songs ever seemed to have been developed further into a full song or were released on an official STRFKR album, it’s nice to sit, listen, and imagine what they could have been.