All Songs Considered, NPR

Vows’ debut album Winter’s Grave arrived to NPR folded carefully in a worn piece of paper xeroxed with hand-drawn artwork. True to it’s packaging, Winter’s Grave is delicately hand-crafted rather then sloppily home-spun. Vows is a dreamy, atmospheric band with pop sensibilities from a small town in New Jersey. The album’s title track has a satisfying blend of enchanting and eerie sounds. It opens with a vibrant riff that rattles over synth keys but slips into dissonant, creepy organ sounds.

In an email, lead vocalist Jeff Pupa explains that the song was inspired by his experiences with travel, particularly a trip to Alaska after his college graduation:

It’s sort of an anthem/pep rally song for the idea of soul-searching. Maybe you leave and find nothing, maybe you return to where you started, but either way you’ve got the visuals of mammoth land and soundscapes surrounding you.

The album is available for download on Bandcamp. Vows is currently in production of its second album.

 – Emily White, NPR

“Stranger Things” album review featured on Space Giraffe(?!)

New Brunswick’s Vows used to make stately, swirling rock songs that recall all the best parts of RadioheadMy Morning JacketGranddaddy and Being Pleasantly Tipsy At A Really Good Party. The last one of those wasn’t a band by the way, but aspiring musicians and bands please feel free to use that as your name – just don’t forget to credit me when you get famous!

Their debut Winter’s Grave was a sprawling, enjoyable mess of a record – and the first album I ever looked at on this site, thanks to the band’s obsessive spamming of music blogs on – that left a very satisfying aftertaste and demanded further listening to enjoy its hidden depths…

…and then I heard Sunday, the second track from their new album Stranger Things and quickly forgot about Winter’s Grave forever.

As I listen to its soaring, floating choruses and gorgeous understated guitar lines, I struggle to find the words to describe the intense emotions that it makes me feel. My heart leaps in its cage and goosebumps form. This is music of pure, unexplainable emotion and it cuts at my soul and makes it difficult to breathe as I stagger and grasp for the correct words to describe it. I am at once transformed and made a failure as a music critic by one simple song.
Go and listen to Sunday.
Send a poet.

I reach for the comparisons; the most obvious one being to compare the beautiful vocal performance to Thom Yorke‘s work with Radiohead and leave it at that, yet Yorke hasn’t made me feel this deeply for years now and comparingVows to other bands seems insulting now.

Stranger Things is a transitional work in Vows’ growing catalog, marking the moment that they transcended their comparisons.
As much of a fuss as I have made of the song Sunday, that isn’t the end of the amazing work on show here and was merely the moment when I realized thatVows were more than just a band that sounded a bit like other bands I like.

Opener Carousel is a glittering, gaudily painted wooden horse being spun around in the center of a world made of colored lights and singing choirs. In other words it is gorgeous and swirling and should be played for the Queen of England.
Kushtaka (Two Beaches) is a sun-bleached beam of Americana mixed with the salt of the sea; a musical journey through psychedelic worlds of wonder. The Golden Hour – currently available as a pay-what-you-want download by clicking these words – grows and flowers into a beautiful pop song, while overhead swirling waves of guitar dance and play for your amusement.

Title track and album closer Stranger Things is a slow-burning, majestic, dirge that grows into a colossal thunder of drums, guitars and distant vocals; a terrific statement of intent that screams, “This is Vows! Now is the time to listen and give thanks!”

Mid-way through a year that seems to have been filled already with terrific independent music, Stranger Things stands as one of the better releases of 2013. After hearing Winter’s Grave, I knew Vows would be good; I just didn’t realize they would be this good.

It’s bold, bright and clearly crafted from pure love and talent.
Immediately make some space in your life for Stranger Things by Vows.

Feature in Pork & Mead Magazine

Hailing from central New Jersey and sounding like a dream underwater is the indie dream pop ensemble, Vows. The band originally consisted of Jeff Pupa (aka Bone Blanket), and James Hencken (aka Nillo). To meet the needs of a waxing group of followers who demand live performance, they have expanded to include three other members – Sabeel Azam, Ryan Ward, and Scott Soffer of Crystal Mountain Music Collective. After releasing their first album, the hauntingly resonate, Winter’s Grave in April of 2011, the band has spent the past year working, playing shows, and producing their upcoming album. Vows is what happens when a ‘no expectations’ project has too much potential to be aimless.

Everything that this band does is DIY. They record their songs in their home studios with crappy equipment, shoot their videos with handheld cameras, and hand make their album packaging. Front man, Jeff, says his aesthetic taste for the handmade was influenced by his experience at art school: “When I look at a piece of art, I really appreciate seeing the artist’s hand involved, and yes I love austere architectural things, but I highly appreciate handmade work. I don’t like listening to overproduced music. I hear a sound and I like to visualize a person playing it rather than a machine.” Unlike some DIY bands that have a tendency to sound sloppy and unhinged, Vows has worked to meticulously tweak what they produce to a state of near perfection. Their music manages to sound both expensive and impoverished. It maintains just enough dissonance to give it character and an artistic edge. Warped on purpose. Driven by rebellion. At times, it sounds like Vows is singing to me from a radio with a dying battery.

Vows is currently in a period of transition. Drummer/vocalist Ryan Ward is leaving the band and moving to Texas. Rather than going through the hassle to find someone to replace him, Jeff is going to step up and double as both the drummer and main vocalist. The traditional set-up with a full drum kit at the back will be moved center stage and technologically revamped. Electronic drums and looping will be implemented. Risky? Kind of, but Jeff is confident because his background supports it; he was trained on the drums. Also, it’s only on drums where he’s able to let go fully as a performer. In the coming months, fans of Vows can look forward to uninhibited performances and a louder, more cohesive sound. A constant in Vows is the artistic visual, which is often integrated into their music. Jeff is very interested in collaborating with a group of artists to make a piece of art that reflects their sound.

Now that this former ‘no expectations’ project has become a full fledged band, the one thing they would like to do most is tour, preferably as the opener for a well known, more established band. There is only one problem with that goal – they all have day jobs. Jeff, who used to live in Alaska and train sled dogs, now works as a veterinary technician. When I asked him how he planned on finding that balance between working/creating, his response was grounded, yet hopeful: “All of us work. What point does it come to, when you say, fuck this, drop what you’re dong in the working world, and do only music. Monetarily, it doesn’t work, but there’s got to be a way to make it happen…we’ve put everything into this album. We’d love for it to go somewhere.” The strides that Vows has made since their vagabond beginning betray their modesty. Although their upcoming album is still under wraps, I did get to take a peak at the lyrics. When read chronologically, the songwriting has evolved from a long, drawn out war to the climactic battle for victory. This shrapnel from their latest track, “Nighttime” illustrates that evolution: “I don’t understand / how all the noises / flew away into the woods / And if you could make a mistake / and change all your plans so we could evaporate / I know, I think you should / it goes to show you that the show it must go on / She takes me home again / I hope this rips your heart out.”

– Pork & Mead Magazine


Pop Dreamscapes Made Real
In 2012, the future sound of American music has never before been so difficult to map. So many contemporary ideas, already deeply rooted and expressed in post 9/11 anxieties, are precocious, experimental and daring.
Vows are from New Jersey and they are emblematic of the current, highly reflective thinking. They are essentially a duo who are part of a wider collective that coalesces and dissolves as needs and wants arise. They also use thin disguises in the shape of improbable pseudonyms. It’s as if the act of expression requires the individual identity to be sublimated and suppressed in order for their bravely honest work to be more clearly visible.
The tunes feature hypnotic repeating figures and sweeping musical gestures that suggest  enormous, humbling landscapes dominated by awe-inspiring forests and mountains. It also hints that we might be a little lost in the world whenever we  become aware of our own smallness.
The songs are carefully structured and arranged to feel as if the moments of surprise are spontaneous. That is adroit. So too is the rather daring use of discord here and there. Brian Wilson’s early meanderings of this nature took him to the brink of ridicule. Here, his legacy is a creative world where bands like Vows don’t feel the need for permission to play as the feel and compose as they see fit.
This music is an altogether different take on Americana but it rightfully takes its place alongside more conventional forms. In the future though, This music will inevitably become a convention in itself and be marked out as being as quintessentially American as Hank Williams or The Beach Boys.
Vows are part of that evolution of form and only they have any clue where it will take them. They are holding the map.
One last thing though, radio is no longer a medium for discovering music in the way that Emmylou first heard Hank. Computers and digital devices are sonically impaired and impede understanding of the lyric narrative. You need headphones to listen properly. This sort of music deserves vinyl but is the LP version going to be an expensive and ironic luxury that few of us can afford? Who knows? Perhaps, we’ll find out sometime in the future.

– Fresh Tracks

M3 Interview

Vows are a band from New Jersey, who play a gentle mixture of folk, indie rock and dream pop, and have recently released their debut album “Winter’s Grave” for free via Bandcamp. M3 had a chat with the band about piracy, art and the DIY approach…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Vows – We’ve all been friends for years, grew up in the same area in New Jersey.  We’re all in our mid 20’s and work day jobs to get by but music has always been our passion.  Any free time that we have is spent either recording or practicing.

What inspired you to form Vows? What are your own musical backgrounds?
Vows was born out of simply trying something different musically than what we had always been used to playing.   We’ve always been playing and recording more acoustic, unplugged, singer/songwriter style music as separate entities.  Vows was more a challenge for ourselves to push our sound into something more fluid and organic that could grow as a band.  We pretty much decided to combine forces to form this band and perform under one moniker.  It’s something we can also stick to and develop.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
It honestly depends what genre of music fits the form.  We’re all into such a varied range of tunes and each fits its own medium.  Vinyl is always a favorite of ours, as it suits a nice lo-fi sound (eg. old folk songs, acoustic music, even modern bands that have a “vintage sound”).  But we all enjoy popping in a tape every now and then and putting an MP3 play list on shuffle, simply because of the immediacy it provides.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
It’s a double-edged sword.  The digital age has become the most efficient and speedy way to spread music online and from one place to another, but it really is just the bare bones – one just receives the songs and a digital image of the album cover.  However, the idea of an album to us has always held true as being an entity as a full package.  Hearing the soft scuffle of a record playing as you sit, hold, touch, feel, and hear a cohesive package is the most sensory activating experience.  There’s more to take away when the senses are combined.  Jasper Johns, a “pop” artist from the 50’s, left behind a great quote in saying, (something along the lines of) “Take something.  Do something to it.  Then do something else to it.”  That is the truest sense of art.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
It has added a whole new element to the music industry but it hasn’t killed it.  It’s certainly opened up new outlets for obtaining music but it has also affected the business aspect of distribution.  Piracy is an issue, but then again there are bands releasing music for free – it’s certainly helped Vows in getting recognition in the online world.  It’s all sort of contradictory too, because ultimately, we’d love to release an album on vinyl, which is the opposite of the digital age.  Sound is really just pushing airwaves around, so the means of doing it doesn’t change the result.  You’re ultimately left with energy for your eardrums.  Music is just more advanced than humans are and we’re all trying to find ways to catch up with its progressions.

Similarly, do you feel that the abundance of recorded music that is easily available on the internet has led people to place more importance on the live experience as the ‘authentic’ way to hear music?
If a band’s music is truly important to a fan or listener, they will find a way to see them live.  The live experience is entirely different, again because it utilizes more of the senses than just listening.  It’s alive.  It’s not necessarily the ‘authentic’ way to experience music, because there are acts out that don’t even write their own music and actually lip-synch live.  But they may mask that with over-the-top stage antics (fire, flashy lights, etc).  That is a totally different realm.  We can’t say if that is “art” or not.  We just know what we’re used to I guess.  But who are we to say anyway?

Do you think the digital age has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
We’d hope that copyright still holds some meaning. We’ve seen our album Winter’s Grave for sale through distributors without our permission and that sucks of course. However at the same time our name is inherently attached to the art. We’re obviously not the Beatles, but anyone who runs around saying they wrote “Hey Jude” other than the Beatles is just an idiot.  But the Beatles have inherent credit for their songs monetarily for eternity. We’d hope someone out there attributes our songs to our name.

What is your take on the recent SOPA controversy?
It’s an understandable act, certainly.  People should be able to spread music, but it relates back to copyright issues and money.  There really is no “good” way to go about eliminating the spread of music online, but there’s also no “good” way to spread music online without stepping on someone’s toes.

Do you think the traditional major label set up is outdated, or do you think it has some advantages over the DIY approach?
We honestly don’t know the ins and outs of life on a major label, however the fact that an album or song can spread like wildfire simply by posting it on a blog means that big labels aren’t the only way. Exposure is available to anyone who has created something great simply via the Internet. However as far as touring and producing and distribution and making any money at all – you probably need a good label. We have always self released all of our albums through our home label “Crystal Mountain Music Collective”, however it gets too involved and time consuming. We can only really put it out there online at this point because what we really know is the music, not marketing, etc. For us, and probably a lot of other musicians, a good label could take a lot of strain off taking care everything else involved.

What do you personally believe the future of music distribution will look like?
Albums as a packaged art form will always remain in stores, whether they’re online or in physical form, we’d hope.  People will always have that need to obtain the art and show it to someone and enjoy.  That is something very important to us as a band and to our sound, which has always been DIY and home-recorded.  Again, sound will advance, and the industry will be chasing after it finding ways to catch up.

Finally, what does the future hold for Vows?
We are currently in the mixing process of our second album, which we’re excited about.  We always have plans for a slew of shoes in June and tours once the album is finished.  We’re making some new changes with our lineup too.  Our live drummer is moving to Austin, TX and we’re working with another guitarist/vocalist to step in.  All of which are close friends and have played in the Crystal Mountain Music Collective.  We are also working with integrating more electronic drum rhythms in our live sound by using tapes and old 4-track recorders.  It’ll be an interesting growth process.  It all goes well in the notion that Vows is constantly growing and evolving – and we’re finding ways to catch up!

– M3

Le groupe que les autres écouteront dans un an – Ep.49 : Vows

On me reproche parfois de ne pas tenir toutes les promesses contenues dans l’intitulé de ce blog. S’il est régulièrement question de voir ou de lire, le boire n’y est, me dit-on, quasiment jamais évoqué. Qu’on se rassure, j’apprécie, avec une modération tout à fait relative eu égard aux politiques de santé publique, les plaisirs d’un bon cru. Malheureusement, en matière d’œnologie, je ne suis qu’un amateur. Dans les deux sens du terme: celui qui aime et celui qui n’y connaît pas grand-chose. Tout juste bon à distinguer le grand cru de la vulgaire piquette, sans guère plus de nuances. Décidément, plus j’avance dans la vie et plus je découvre de nouveaux territoires à explorer. Dans l’univers foisonnant de la musique indépendante, il est aussi nécessaire de savoir séparer le bon grain de l’ivraie. Et, si je n’ai pas une confiance absolue en mon palais, j’ai tendance à croire aveuglément ce que me disent mes oreilles. Entre les indéboulonnables, qui ne déçoivent jamais, les grands crus et la piquette (cf les rubriques J’ai pas aimé et La chanson qui donne des boutons), se cachent parfois de belles découvertes, de ces petits producteurs qu’on n’attendait pas et qui vous offrent un nectar savoureux, fin et gouleyant. Alors que The Shins sortent aujourd’hui un breuvage certes agréable mais bien loin de leur meilleur millésime, les outsiders de Vows méritent une place de choix dans mon guide de l’année avec un disque, Winter’s Grave, qui témoigne d’un savoir-faire artisanal et d’une maîtrise étonnante.
Voilà maintenant plusieurs semaines que j’ai découvert Winter’s Grave et je suis toujours irrésistiblement attiré par ce disque, comme par un aimant. Il y a une beauté singulière dans cette pop aérienne, un optimisme communicatif dans ces compositions folk qui mêlent habilement un sens mélodique remarquable et une volonté d’expérimentation clairement revendiquée. Fondé autour de Bone Blanket et Nillo, et enrichi de trois autres membres du Crystal Mountain Music Collective, Vows est né de la volonté des deux songwriters de se lancer dans une aventure à la fois collective et expérimentale. Sortir de leur zone de confort folk acoustique pour explorer de nouveaux univers. Le résultat. Un disque magnifique, à la fois modeste et grandiose où sensibilité folk rock et sonorités synthétiques cohabitent harmonieusement. Le recours à des éléments électroniques ne nuit en rien à l’authenticité de l’ensemble. Il se dégage de ce disque une atmosphère particulière, tantôt contemplative, tantôt plus intense, comme si l’on se trouvait plongé dans une sorte de long rêve éveillé.
Alors que l’hiver touche à sa fin et que le ciel laisse enfin apparaître la promesse de jours meilleurs, il semblait évident de parler de ce bien nommé Winter’s Grave. Car, bien loin de la morosité chronique de la musique folk actuelle, ce disque est d’un bout à l’autre porteur d’espoir. Une bien belle aventure que ce premier album, qui laisse augurer des lendemains glorieux pour le groupe. Actuellement, Vows est en préparation d’un nouvel album qui devrait voir le jour en fin d’année. A suivre de très près…Pour patienter jusque là, voici Winter’s Grave en écoute intégrale rien que pour vous, bande de veinards. Mais comme d’hab…vous connaissez la suite.

j’ai tout lu, tout vu, tout bu

Album Review Vows – Winter’s Grave

I  learned from time to time that music is your freedom. To see musicians devote themselves doing something in order to make people is one reason to believe in humanity again. It’s like going back in time, hearing the echo of monochrome TV broadcasting the landing of the first man on the moon and all was well.

Winter’s Grave is  whale of an album in terms of sonic craftsmanship. They take everything that makes music warm and human(analog as opposed to digital) and blow it to epic proportion that makes you swoon as you are surrounded with layer upon layer of wondrous sounds.

The lover of vinyl and analog music in me warmed up the first time I heard their style. So I was lucky enough to have this interview with band member Jeff. His way of explaining everything is a joy to read.

(full interview here)

Sphere Music

What gloomy, epically glorious things would a person think and hear, surrounded by walls of endless sun drenched sea? Vows may have captured the sound of being marooned. Winter’s Grave is oceanic movements of indie dream pop, currents of guitars and harmonies swelling over wonderful songwriting. There are shades of Papercuts and Beach House here, some off-kilter Beck style moments and more than a touch of Jens Leckman-esque romanticism. There are lonely and transformative moments in this release, where it seems Vows are singing to someone loved who won’t listen. At times it seems they have company on the lifeboat of their sound, and irregular joy breaks through in chants and jangly guitars; but the resonance is isolation- a group of men at sea, making rafts of gorgeously lonely music. Listen and be shipwrecked.

Pop Stache

Wenn mir an so einem klirrend kalten Wintertag ein Album digital in die Hände fällt, das sich Winter’s Grave nennt, kann das ja nichts anderes als Schicksal sein. Alsbald war die Debutplatte von den aus New Jersey stammenden Vowsmehrmals durchgehört und entwickelte sich somit zu einem perfekten Soundtrack für einen Tag, an dem die Sonne scheint und die Bärte ob des Windes gefrieren.


Das Dream Pop Duo – wie sich die Band selbst bezeichnet – besteht eigentlich nur aus den Herren Bone Blanket and Nillo. Um ihren vorzüglichen Sound jedoch auch auf die Bühne zu zaubern zu können, haben sich die Beiden Verstärkung aus dem Pool des Crystal Mountain Music Kollektivs besorgt und zwar in Form von Sabeel Azam, Ryan Ward, Scott Soffer.

Wie dem auch sei, mit der Bezeichnung Dream Pop lagen die Jungs gar nicht mal so falsch. Von hektischen Klängen ist das Album jedenfalls weit entfernt. Es ist mehr wie ein Spaziergang durch den Schnee, mit großartiger Landschaft, Aussicht, Gesellschaft und einem episch anmutenden Soundtrack im Rücken. Vielleicht wie die “Reise” im Film Into The Wild, angereichert mit jeder Menge Leichtigkeit.

Und damit ihr auch hört, was ich meine, findet Ihr anbei die wichtigen Links sowie unseren bandcamp player, mit dem ihr Euch das komplette Album mal anhören könnt.

Μελαγχολία.Αυτό είναι το συναίσθημα που μ αρέσει.Αν μπορούσα να ελέγξω τη ψυχική μου κατάσταση θα επέλεγα να αρρωστήσω απ αυτή τη συννεφιά.Λίγο έτσι λίγο αλλιώς εδώ που τα λέμε όλα γύρω από κει γυρίζουν.Οι ζωώδεις εκρήξεις αδρεναλίνης και τεστοστερόνης και οι μίζερες χίμαιρες της καθημερινού μου αναθέματος.Ούτε χαρά ούτε λύπη,ούτε κρύο ούτε ζέστη,ούτε λιακάδα ούτε καταιγίδα…συννεφιά!
Προφανώς τα παραπάνω λόγια δε δίνουν κύρος στο δισκάκι.Αν επιλέξεις να το ακούσεις όμως θα δεις ότι δε χρειάζεται τις συστάσεις κανενός.Είναι σε πολύ καλό δρόμο η φάση του.Καλή ακρόαση…
ΥΓ:Δυστυχώς δε μου είναι δυνατόν να θυμηθώ από που τους τσέκαρα πρώτη φορά (για να πω ένα ευχαριστώ).Νομίζω το πρότεινε ο Spike (suicidedots)πριν κάνα δυο μήνες.

Indie Sessions

Here’s a great new indie outfit from New Jersey named Vows.  This duo of the Crystal Mountain Music Collection somehow manage to create an all encompassing sound that reminds me a little of Okkervil River’s newest album.  Their music is full and welcoming, drawing the listener into their dreamy vibes of jangly guitars and romance.  Their debut album, which came out last April showcases these musical skills as it shifts from loud and heavier tunes like “parallel” to quiet love songs like, “Two Sunrises.”  Though released in the spring, this is a great album to brighten up your dark winter days.  Check out a few of my favorites below and be sure to give Winter’s Grave a listen. -M. Kauf

Tour De Vaap

Such a vast territory this “indie rock” is, right? And I mean, sure, it ought to be. If we’re to believe that mainstream music is quite hard to enter into, than there must be many more bands doing their own thing in venues all across the world than there are on MTV and such. And that’s in no way a means by which one can judge value. Vows have a great thing going, a truly interesting sound and the freedom to experiment and pursue the echoes leading them on. At the confluence between Radiohead and Cocteau Twins, this album is just remarkable. Lush, ethereal sound draped around a definite pop sensibility, this is music one can relate to, discreetly enjoy, whisper about to select friends and use as a soundtrack for solitude. I can easily appreciate the openness of this album, it’s inviting glow, albeit a bit chilly, mostly because of the slightly psychedelic space vacuum slithering under the surface of these songs. I sadly don’t have many points of reference in my attempt to gain some comparative perspective on the music, but I can say this – Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, I’ve tried them all out and I haven’t clicked. Vows, however, got my attention almost instantly.

You see, I get the feeling those other bands I mentioned treat their influences like a Rubik’s Cube – fascinating, compelling, but ultimately technical, leaving little to no opportunity for overlap and color blending. What I hear on Vow’s debut record is quite different. It’s like a finger-painting, where folk, electronica and rock blend in vibrant shades, surprising and full of depth, raw and joyous. The fact that the material is recorded in a home studio, or something along those lines, adds to this vibe of childlike glee I get from the record – there’s no pretension, no easy escape or eminent polish through production; the music sounds real, organic, close at hand and the playfulness and poetry permeating the album seem all together more vivid because of this.

This down to earth approach shines through the video to the third track of the album as well – a pleasantly imperfect, refreshingly non-symbolic visual complement to the harmony and cadence of the song itself. It’s just lovely to be able to softly put the ever-so-agitated post-post-modern critical mind to rest for a bit and just enjoy something like this, so home-spun, so sincere. Sure, the references and connections all bubble beneath the surface, but if there’s one thing this album reminds me of it to just force yourself to shut up once in a while, at least in your own head, and contemplate, allow the sediment to settle, drink it all in. I’m firmly wedged in a bleak, useless, beating-a-dead-horse winter here in Romania, and this record, aptly titled, makes me feel like there’s a safe, shimmering barrier between me and the seasonal lightlessness outside.

I haven’t been so excited about a new band since the In It write-up, and I’m really happy that I can embed the entire Winter’s Grave album in the post, just like in that instance. Bandcamp is amazing, really. I really hope you enjoy this record. Keep an ear open for Unreal Love (sounding almost like a late-Beatles outtake, with a delightful Spanish verse), and Queen Baby (reminding me so much of Cocteau Twins’ spacious sound). I wish these guys the best and I’m looking forward to the new album they’ve announced to be working on! See you soon!

Za Records

This weeks band to watch, Vows, is a “DIY dream pop due” from Central NJ comprised of Bone Blanket and Nillo. It’s hard not to get hooked upon first listen. With dreamy soundscapes and calming vocals matched with an upbeat tone throughout the whole album, it definitely left me wanting more. There are also elements of folk especially the song “Glory” which to me can be best described as dreamy folk.  The pair is currently playing shows with three other members of the Crystal Mountain Music Collective (Sabeel Azam, Ryan Ward, Scott Soffer) to recreate the sound as a live band experience. Now, amid shows the band is back in the basement recording a new full-length album.These guys are definitely on the rise and personally I can’t wait to hear what else they have in store.

Feel Good Playlists

Like a wobbly Bambi still slick with afterbirth, I’m still finding my feet. At the moment I feel ready to review just about anything, so when the New Jersey duo Vows happened to “like” my last music post, I thought I’d check them out. Turns out they’re actually quite good. There’s a clear Radiohead flavour to them, but there are hints of the Mars Volta’s more mellow moments, and that kind of subdued, Bombay Bicycle Club dreamy vapour hangs over many of the tracks. I particularly like “Born a Wolf” – the vocals remind me of the Local Natives. Listen to the album “Winter’s Grave” here, and if you like it enough order a fancy hand-made physical copy from their site.


Nillo and Bone Blanket of Crystal Mountain Music Collective  have struck a real chord with their collaborations and have began recording and touring under one monicker known as Vows. With a sound that distorts and moves from song to song Vows has created something truly unique and, overall, very enjoyable to listen to.

The band’s freshman release, Winter’s Grave, debuted in April of 2011 and is characterized by synthetic overtones and folk rock sensibility. The record unashamedly embraces the limits of its home studio recording and dances atop both organic noise and electronic leads. This sentiment gives the release a rollicking blend of attitude and ambience that is rarely heard and gives the music an intensely personal quality.

“Born a Wolf” is my favorite track on the record and is filled to the brim with all of the things that Vows does right: exquisite use of vocal harmony, melody driven music, relatable lyrics, and unending experimentation. The guitars are simply stated and very clean, a smart way to play on a busy track such as this, and provide hooks and leads to cling to while letting the vocals take precedent. The percussive use of the keyboard gives this song a swinging feel that keeps you on your toes and sets a high standard for the rest of the record.

The standards set by “Born a Wolf” are consistently well met throughout the release. If “Born a Wolf” is the initial spark that claims the forest  then “Unreal Love” is the burning limbs of the first fallen tree. These two songs together, in succession, are specific highlights of the musical ingenuity that Vows possesses and draws upon for their writing. While “Unreal Love” starts off stripped down, it quickly builds into one of the most epic moments on the CD. The chorus is teeming with vocal harmony, memorable grooves, and a drum part that transitions incredibly well into the chorus hook- giving it a movement and huge feeling that command your attention. After the bridge another verse comes in, and it is not until you realize that they are singing in another language that you can truly appreciate the subtle intricacies put into this record. These two songs, upon first listen, are those that opened my eyes to the musical might that is Vows and held my attention in place throughout the entirety of the release.

From beginning to end Winter’s Grave is full of catchy tunes that are well done and memorable. Ranging from upbeat rock instrumentation to low-fi  and psychedelic waves of sound, this record contains bits of enjoyment for everyone. For their universal marketability and their bold experimentation I give the release an 8 out of 10.

But wait, there’s more!

Vows is currently recording a new album that is due to be finished in 2012. I’ve recently had the opportunity to speak with Nillo about the recording process and sound of the new release.

“The new record is shaping up to be a little heavier on some electronic elements. It will be a more dynamic direction as we’re taking some chances with mixing it. Winter’s Grave was mostly all recorded in the same room of a basement and a living room. For this new record however, we’ve been messing around with recording in different ambient spaces and using some unusual techniques.”

Nillo went on to reveal that the new album is going to be both heavier and darker than Winter’s Grave, and hearing that made my ears perk up. The dedication to the organic sounds on the album paired with a darker feel leaves me with an excitement for the future of Vows’ music. I recommend that we all keep a weathered eye on the horizon for their new release- I have a feeling that something good is going to come out of it.

Other notable tracks on Winter’s Grave are “Parallel”, “A Mile From The Road”, and “Anywhere You Go”.

-Cardinal Playlists


I came across these guys whilst on the Internet and wanted to give them a try, and a minute turned to ten and ten turned a lot more than that. I find something eerily pleasant about Vows. There is quite often a desire to compare music to more recognizable musicians like, “oh they sound like Radiohead”. I want to refrain from that with Vows. Mostly because I have not given them enough time to really understand where they are coming from.

Vows’ songs are full of echo giving them that ethereal, eery sound, but the music is bittersweet; blissfully melancholy. A perfect background to a thoughtful, relaxed evening when you are accompanied merely by your thoughts. Take a listen and please, enjoy.

-The Subjective Listener

Vows Album…

I actually found out about Vows after they liked one of my posts just the other day. After somebody likes one of my posts, I usually check out if they have a site of their own. It happened that Vows did. You can check them out here… . Anyways, I went through their site and dug up their album “Winter’s Grave” (which happens to have a great album cover).  Immediately their sound reminded me of Youth Lagoon. Which is weird considering my last post was about Youth Lagoon. But anyway, their sound is very relaxing while having a nice folk-pop sound to it at times. I strongly urge you to go and buy their album. Yes, it’s on iTunes. I promise you, Vows will be a very very well known group in a very short time.

Upcoming shows you ask?

1/6 – @The Stone Pony – Asbury Park, NJ
1/22 – @The Cake Shop – New York, NY
2/18 – @Le Grande Fromage – Atlantic City, NJ

Go check out their site, and go buy their album “Winter’s Grave”. If you like Youth Lagoon, you’ll love Vows.

Vows – “Winter’s Grave”

Softly played and loudly spoken jams comprise [Vows’] debut album “Winter’s Grave” with 11 tracks of folk-rock grooves. Those 11 tracks range from acoustic hook heavy songs like “Anywhere You Go” to full-on jamborees such as album closer “Dead Ends.” Whether you are looking for quiet jams to compliment your readings at night, or all out instrumental pieces with howling vocals to keep your cabin fresh and alive, Vows have got what you are looking for. Download “Winter’s Grave” over at their bandcamp [here].

Minimum Advice

“Winters Grave” by Vows

I am not sure which link on obscure shoutbox I clicked to find this band. But it turns out good and even better when I find out it’s a free release on the CMMC Label which have much more to offer.
So Vows is a duo from New Jersey an play some psychy/dream pop. Maybe a mixture between Beach House and Grizzly Bear. Some tracks are real gems and stay in your head, some are just for the moment, but that’s ok. There is potential here for your new favorite springtime soundtrack.
I am sure if they ever go to a real recording studio with professional mastering and shit it turns boring. So keep your DIY recording sound, please.

Dying For Bad Music

Winter’s Grave by Vows

Winter’s Grave by New Jersey’s Vows (released April 13, 2011) takes you on a trip from the very first song. The opening track is aptly titled “A Mile From the Road,” and its scratchy, yet dreamy hook reveals to the listener that you may not know exactly where you’re gonna go next on this album, but that this is no bad thing. Although not the album’s best track, it serves as a great intro when combined with the album as a whole laying-on-your-back-with-headphones-on experience.

The brilliant second track (“Parallel”) kicks you into bliss with great verse to chorus transitioning and a wonderfully awkward pause near the middle, giving you enough time to think to yourself:Why the fuck haven’t I heard these guys before?

“Anywhere You Go” has a Chet Atkins guitar feel to it modernized by a great Radiohead-esque drum-beat and haunting vocals.

“Winter’s Grave” has a guitar riff that reminds me of early Rolling Stones, a heavy, in-your-face bass, and a catchy chorus with great harmonies.

“Dead Ends” is an anthem of an ending that reaches a denouement then fades out masterfully .

And it leaves you hoping that there’s no end to this band (and the fact that they’re working on a second album now is comforting indeed). The album as a whole, which is how I think it should be experienced, shows that Vows has captured a maturity to their sound that isn’t expected in most debut releases. The songs have obvious pop qualities but with hints of jazz, of the 50s-60s Nashville sound, of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, which is all made better with modern twists and complemented by great, memorable vocals with well thought-out and interesting lyrical flows. It is an album worthy of my physical collection, but, alas, its hand-made canvas copies are sold out (as they should be).

I kept thinking throughout the album that these guys sounded like a familiar band; but, I eventually realized that that was just Vows’ brilliance. A true work of art feels timeless. And that means that it could have been put out 50 years ago, 50 years ahead, or just released.

Buy the album. Take the ride.

Tracks to peep: “Parallel,” “Born a Wolf,” “Anywhere You Go,” “Winter’s Gone,” and “Glory”

Albums That Deserve Your Ears 

Vow’s debut album “Winter’s Grave”

Dubbed out samples and churning white noise are making endless rounds in increasingly lifeless indie pop. It’s hard to find the pearls without sifting through lots of lackluster muck.

Vows’ debut album, Winter’s Grave stands out from that mess without ditching the musical aesthetics that has made this style so damn popular. The seasonal title of the work proves to be strikingly accurate. With the exception of the opening tracks’ warm Rhodes piano invoking some wintry nostalgia, the album pulls quickly away from the wool and gloom of this year’s winter, diving face first into a pool of summery shimmer. It’s hard not to feel the pull of the band’s continual optimism for the beachy goodness that late May holds. “Parallel”, the second track, stumbles around its first half in a wintry mix of chillingly hollow bass coupled with haunting high-end organ jabs and electric guitar caked in icy VST reverb. Around the two-minute mark, a sudden flurry of ecstatic shaker madness greets the listener like the moment when pollen and heat slap you in the face and you realize… summer has arrived.

Jeff Pupa, the mind behind Bone Blanket and other central Jersey indie projects, does not abandon his song writing skills. He manages to keep his songs genuine despite the generous use of post-production effects and warm synthetic sheen not found in much of his other work. Soft meandering toy box melodies in tracks like “Unreal Love” and “Queen Baby” do much to set the mood for the album. Pupa vocally channels his inner Zach Condon, crooning on “Unreal Love” and “Anywhere You Go.” Most of the album, however, has Pupa’s signature powerful vocal chords largely where they were in his previous projects, give or take some reverb. It’s exciting to see some of the experimentation being added so gradually, so as not to dilute what has been working so well. Most of the songs are based around lyrics and the feelings they evoke, but unlike other folky projects from the Crystal Mountain Music Collective, the words here often recede into the mix so heavily or get so lost in their own psychedelic looped ambiance that they become part of the background. All the while, Nillo’s warbling piano lines glide in and out of the mix to keep the water-like flow consistent. The keyboard’s summery drone builds into the shakes, pops, and crackles that return to the melodic guitar hooks that led you there in the first place.

Soft percussive elements push through the album’s ambiance enough to drive many of the tracks into the frantic pop hooks that make them irresistibly endearing. Stand out tracks like “Queen Baby”, “Parallel”, and the title track, “Winter’s Grave”, largely sum up the feel but don’t entirely do it justice. There is plenty of density to go around here. Even after a few listens, the work stands to highlight various aspects of emotional rides associated with the season’s change. Pupa’s voice is never so washed out as to be unmistakable, like a beacon in the dense fog of stereo textures. The jittery evolution into droning chaos within the closer, “Dead Ends”, makes the trees lose their leaves, inviting you to hit repeat to thaw the next year’s winter all over again. Fans of Pupa’s clean folk song writing ability will not be disappointed, but it is important to note that much of the acoustic sensibility of previous endeavors has been shed in favor of more experimental ambiance. I hope we can expect more from this duo, as this has been one of the most innovative and fun sonic trips to come from Jersey in recent memory.

Matt Jack

Vows – Winter’s Grave

Οι Vows θυμιζουν έντονα Rufus Wainwright αλλά το κάνουν πολύ καλά. Ήρθαν στο κατάλληλο τάιμινγκ όσον αφορά τον εαυτό μου. Μόνο δίπλα μου δεν τους είχα σήμερα. Έτσι, να τα λέμε που και που κατά το άκουσμα. Ο δίσκος μου έβγαλε το αίσθημα της απώλειας. Της ερωτικής. Αυτή, που μόνο όταν έρθει συνθλίβεσαι πάνω στα αγκάθια της και σπαράζεις από αφόρητο πόνο. Αυτή που σου κόβει την ανάσα στα δύο, σαν να πήρε τη μισή μαζί της..και σε βρίσκει ανήμπορο να αισθανθείς οτιδήποτε άλλο από εκείνη..

Suicide Dots

Vows – Winter’s Grave

“Hemlagad, lite lätt psykedelisk drömpop från New Jersey. Som ett Beach House på en oklippt gräsmatta. Bara att ta sig in på Bandcamp och hämta.”


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Nominated for The Deli Magazines Artist of The Month

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