Album Review: Vinnie Caruana – “City By The Sea”

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It’s certainly no secret that business has been booming in the punk/hardcore-singer-goes-solo movement in recent years. Whether motivated by artist maturation or by financial reasons (gas is expensive and people don’t buy records anymore) or some combination of the two, the increasingly crowded waters can be tough to navigate for both artist and consumer alike. Some are out performing essentially unplugged sets of songs they’ve written for their other bands, which is fine and can be done effectively. A smaller group, however, seem to be focused on trying something new, moving  on from old sounds and pulling back the curtain on some of the other music they’ve been influenced by. Vinnie Caruana’s debut EP, City By The Sea, finds him very adeptly planting roots in the latter category.

Better known (for now) as former frontman of pop-punkers The Movielife and currently heading up I Am The Avalanche and Peace’d Out, Caruana’s solo EP has little in common with his better known, band-oriented projects. Pulling from his first-hand experiences in the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which decimated large portions of his greater NYC stomping grounds, the lyrics are pretty dark and personal, especially “Boy, You’re In Heaven” when taken literally, though I suspect there is more than a little dark sarcasm to be implied.

Sonically, City By The Sea has more in common with the 80’s post-punk influences on Face To Face frontman Trever Keith’s 2008 solo debut, Melancholics Anonymous, than it does to anything you might consider traditionally “punk.” And that’s a good thing. As you might imagine, Caruana’s voice really takes center stage, backed at various times by acoustic and electric guitars, piano, live drums and various programmed loops. The music in some areas is brighter and airier than you might expect given the subject matter, which serves to soften the blow of the stomach-punch lyrics. Case in point; there’s really no way to sugarcoat lines like “I don’t want to die in my car,” yet the mood on album-opener “Somehow The World Keeps Turning” tries to find a glimmer of hope amidst the despair.

It took until the second time through City By The Sea before I really grasped what Caruana was shooting for. I left the album on repeat for a full day in my office thereafter, and it never got old. Catchy and upbeat when it had to be, always engaging and compelling; the signs of brightness on the horizon in Caruana’s budding solo career. Look forward to it.

4/5 stars

City By The Sea is available February 5th on I Surrender Records in the States and Xtra Mile in the UK.



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