Vacay Finds his Voice on ‘Howlin’ Wind’

Many music fans can be easily bored by mainstream pop music. Songs on the radio are often too generic, predictable, and just uninspired. Those listeners who wade through the forgettable milieu, though, can find gems that have certain qualities of pop music, like accessibility and solid songwriting, and are also produced with care and some originality. Vacay, the stage name of Levi Randall, recently released his debut solo EP entitled Howlin’ Wind, and it contains many of those positive qualities of pop music.

To a passive listener, Howlin’ Wind might sound somewhat standard with its easily digestible music and simple lyrical themes. With more focused attention, though, one can hear the high level of effort and detail that went into the production of the EP. The musicianship and delivery are effortlessly proficient, and Randall offers enough of an original lyrical voice to keep audiences interested.

In the title track, for example, Randall uses the image of the “howlin’ wind” to describe the forces in life that can disrupt one’s sense of peace and belonging. While the song might come across as a love story, his message is somewhat broader and potentially deeper than it might seem initially. In the most telling chorus, he writes, “’Cause in my own strength, my roots went dry/ broken branches got tossed at night/ I gave in to the howlin’ wind/ so I let you in, you’ll still the howlin’ wind.” The “you” in this scenario is entirely open-ended and leaves the interpretation up to the listener.

After the more standard love song “Moving You,” we get a slightly political tinge with the song “Mexico.” Here, Randall describes his desire for more open-minded thinking about borders and immigration. He writes of a lover who was sent back to Mexico and his wish that they could be together. He writes, “Lord, gift my children with a safer place/ a holy ground where these walls break like clay.” The religious imagery here is strange but perhaps appropriate for discussing the largely Catholic country. The music on “Mexico” is not particularly memorable, but Randall shows some of his personal flair with a noticeable hand clap pattern in the chorus that gives the song just a little hint of musical originality.

To close out the EP, there’s “Shoes,” where Randall describes being jealous of an ex’s new fiancée, there’s a solid, understated cover of “Human Nature,” and the love song “The Other Side.” All three show off Randall’s solid delivery on vocals and the instrumentals, even if they are not the most inspired compositions.

Howlin’ Wind offers a look into a promising start to a solo career for Randall as Vacay. He shows impressive musicianship and a keen sense for pop sensibilities with a little creativity mixed in to keep things fresh. The EP may not break any new ground musically, but it shows an artist who is undoubtedly ready to break out.

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