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Chad VanGaalen: Diaper Island


Chad VanGaalen

Album: Diaper Island
Label: Sub Pop

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On the first pass, Chad VanGaalen’s Diaper Island sounds like a return to his usual lo-fi sound after he experimented with overdubbing, drum machines, synths, and other electronics on 2008’s Soft Airplane. But while he’s certainly revisiting his familiar aesthetic, VanGaalen has refined his style, resulting in a focused, cohesive album with a rocker’s confidence powering through each track. Stripping back down brings out some remarkably affecting melodies—coolly drifting chants float over the eerie “Peace On The Rise,” while “No Panic/No Heat” soars with wordless, orchestrated harmony. On the record’s slower tracks, Diaper Island is meticulously intricate and stirringly emotional. “Heavy Stones” builds to a plaintive chorus—“I can’t remember your name / I can’t remember anything”—and “Shave My Pussy” is sung from the sad perspective of a self-conscious, unattractive woman looking for love. (Rather than a crude joke, the track’s title only makes the narrator that much more pitiful.) Most of Diaper Island still sounds scratched out of a vintage tape machine, but VanGaalen is clearly no longer a basement amateur.