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Vargen - Vargen (self-released)

12 December 2023

Finding singer-songwriters in the modern musical landscape is effortless these days. Throw a metaphorical rock in any direction, and you are almost assured of hitting some young troubadour with a wide-brimmed hat, acoustic punk-popster, or ballading girl in a hippy dress. This is fine if you want to hear someone with a working knowledge of A minor and an instagram account subject you to the accumulated wisdom of their 19 years on this planet, but some of us are more demanding than that.

And if you are one of those looking for a better standard of singer-songwriter, you could do a lot worse than spend some time in the company of Vargen and his new, eponymous album. Although to call him a singer-songwriter is to do him a bit of an injustice, yes, he sings, he writes songs, but it is how he frames those musical missives that sees him run from acoustic pop to jazz-infused numbers, from emotive piano ballads to epic soundscapes, and from delicate solo pieces to full band sonics.

Kicking off with “Mindy Morning,” a song that reminds me of Joshua Kadison’s Jessie” if *David Gray had written in that vein, is a perfect introduction, laying out the sonic stall perfectly. But, as I said, it is a stall offering many different musical sounds and styles, genres and themes. “Easter Soul” has a Tom Petty vibe to it (I shouldn’t keep dropping names; that’s just lazy journalism, but Vargen’s music seems to echo with so many classic sounds, it is hard not to), “Toxicon” wanders the realms of reggae-kissed, 60’s chamber pop, “Them Cats” is seductive and jazzy and “A Midnight Dreary” is…well, everything – anthemic, proggy, gothic, classically-infused, brooding, understated, explosive…and that isn’t even the half of it.

As I said at the start, singer-songwriters are two-a-penny. But singer-songwriters of this caliber are worth their weight in gold!