According to his biography, Sam Vail drifted from one minor Detroit band to another for over a quarter century before forming Vailcode. The band's self-titled debut, however, sounds like the work of a group of youngsters besotted both with the post-Radiohead trend of earnest U.K. pop/rock bands in the Coldplay or Keane style and the tendencies toward ultra-atmospheric sonic excess shown by groups like Sigur Rós and post-Summerteeth Wilco. The songs are intimate, quiet affairs centered around Vail's tremulous voice with simple guitar and keyboard accompaniment, but each song is then draped in a gauzy film of reverb and echo. On songs like the mournful "Dead Dolls," the result can be impressive if not exactly entertaining. (Vail's flat and expressionless vocals aren't helping.) A few songs, most notably the genuinely catchy and propulsive "Waiting There for You," are exceptions to this rule, but too much of Vailcode is a slog through moody ambience in search of memorable tunes.
by Stewart Mason