Our uncertain times seem to favor economical performers, and music that offers escapism more through soothing, fictitious words than hedonistic bombast and volume. A good example of the current spate of indie bedroom-pop outfits opting for spare backing tracks and minimalist touring lineups is Vandaveer, a Washington, D.C.-based group built around singer-songwriter Mark Charles Heidinger.
Heidinger, who also serves as bassist for These United States, among others, is joined on recordings by a stable of musicians and sister Rose Guerin, who provides lovely vocal harmonies on his strong, melodic compositions. The result lies somewhere between the intimacy of KaiserCartel or The Low Anthem and the indie-eyed soul of Ray LaMontagne and his ilk.
Divide & Conquer, Vandaveer's latest, was released in France in April, and came out this month on small Providence, R.I., label Supply & Demand. Following the hushed atmospheric title track, Vandaveer slides into the creepy "Fistful of Swoon," where Heidinger's voice gradually builds from a conspiratorial near-whisper to a Bonnie Prince Billy bleat, as the music swells to a gothic crescendo.
The album also hints at pastoral country-rock ("Resurrection Mary"), waltzing Americana ("Woolgathering") and tight 1-2-3-4 pop ("Before the Great War"). This last song, an ode to the pains and pleasures of self-reinvention, seems an apt topic for a songwriter who clearly favors experimenting with personas, characters and genre, and who maneuvers between them with grace and confidence.
And finally, it's hard not to like a songwriter who titles a song "Beverly Cleary's 115th Dream," and sings it to that heroine of young-adult fiction, Ramona.
Vandaveer with Paul Luc and Emily Rodgers. 8 p.m. Tue., Sept. 1 (doors at 7 p.m.). Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $7. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com
- A fistful of swoon: Vandaveer