Review by Angelica Nicolle Abalos
August 19, 2016 – Bayside – Vacancy
Since their inception in 2000, Bayside has been through hell and back on their musical journey and continues to prove that they only thrive in the midst of turmoil. Consisting of members Anthony Raneri (vocals/guitar), Jack O’Shea (guitar), Nick Ghanbarian (bass) and Chris Guglielmo (drums), their newest release, Vacancy, not only hones in on Bayside’s distinctive sound, but also incorporates many of the successful elements from their previous albums. Sixteen years later and the band shows no signs of slowing down.
Much of the album provides an honest look into Raneri’s life during the last few years. Vacancy is heavily themed around Raneri’s deteriorating marriage and eventual divorce.
Press play and Bayside immediately eases you into the album with a rush of distorted instrumentation that sets the tone and pace for the album: loss, confusion and little, if any, glimmers of hope. “I know, I know I should get better,” Raneri sings on the opening track “Two Letters.” Hushed vocals entice the listener and grabs their attention long before the pounding bass and crashing drums appear. The album starts off on a good note with the all-too-familiar catchy melodies and common themes of angst and self-loathing Bayside is known for that are consistent throughout the album.
The lyrics found in each song are raw with emotion; no ounce of bitterness or mourning is spared. In previous releases, Raneri’s lyrics have commented on God, or the lack thereof. “I’ve Been Dead All Day” sports a catchy and poppy musical tone overlaid with gloomy lyrics where he finds himself desperate enough to pray to God: “That night I actually prayed/ I think God’s forgotten my name/ …maybe God lost touch and now we’ve been playing phone tag.”
With growling vocals and eerie vocal harmonies, Raneri’s show tune influences can clearly be distinguished in “Not Fair.” The track’s instrumentals are reminiscent of The Walking Wounded’s title track. Instrumentally, Bayside manages to stay true to themselves. Even during various experimenting with Raneri’s show tunes influences, the band is able to refine each tune to align with their previous works. Vacancy is easily a continuation of Bayside’s story. This is a band who knows who they are and have no plans of reinventing their sound.
The latter half of the album picks the pace back up for the climax. Keys are more prominent but not overused, lyrics become a little more aggressive, and the tracks become much more attention grabbing. Some of the highlights of the album such as “Pretty Vacant”–with its poppy intro, booming bass lines, and perfect guitar fills–and “The Ghost”–one of the album’s catchier, classic rock and roll inspired songs–leave listeners on a high. The album, at this point, fully exhibits a perfected musical formula where other albums fell short. Songs like “Maybe, Tennessee” lend to Bayside’s classic post-bridge solos, which are sonically similar to their last album Cult. The simple breakdowns, palms mutes and chugs bring a familiarity that Bayside fans, old and new, would be pleased to hear.
Vacacy’s final track “It’s Not As Depressing As It Sounds” may be the most dynamic track of the album. It is melodically eerie with its use of strings, hushed vocals, and keys which add a unique weight to the song before the whole band comes in. Contrary to how Bayside has typically concluded their previous releases, this album doesn’t end with a full bang. Rather, “It’s Not As Depressing As It Sounds” gives the listener a longing for some sort of fulfillment and closure. Just when you think it’s going to get better, you’re left wanting more. Vacancy’s finale leaves the album with an open-endedness and a small longing of hope that there is more to come.
Bayside’s Vacancy takes you through the twists and turns of Raneri’s emotional turmoil and is an album that will surely stand the test of time. Vacancy only gets better and better as it resonates and rings vibrantly during each playback. With each new release, Bayside has shown progression and a continuation of perfecting their craft and there’s no doubt that Bayside has only scratched the surface with showing us what they have to offer.