Vagabon could be the next big thing in indie rock, but Infinite Worlds isn't the album that gets her there.Father/Daughter Records, 2017
7.2 / 10
Vagabon is the moniker of indie rock musician Lætitia Tamko. Tamko’s name has been everywhere lately from NPR to Stereogum to Pitchfork. Pitchfork even called her “an indie rock game changer.” Whoa, that is huge praise. However, Tamko’s “game changing” praise seems to stem from her identity of being a black woman, who plays indie rock. Say what? Not R&B or hip hop or pop music? Truth be told, there aren’t many black female musicians playing indie rock. However, should race be the main determinant in a musician being “game changing?” What about the music behind Vagabon’s debut album, Infinite Worlds?
No doubt it’s good. Tamko’s songwriting comes from a personal place. Her voice is tender and easy on the ears. The album’s arrangements definitely hit the mark. However, Infinite Worlds isn’t game changing. Rather than being innovative, Vagabon’s music lands comparatively close with artists like Lady Lamb and Torres. Both of those women have put out back-to-back solid albums. Infinite Worlds is good, but it barely touches their work. I’ll explain why.
Although Infinite Worlds falls into the indie rock genre, it owes a lot to its solid drumming. The angsty guitar riffs are there but never go as far they could. Tamko also doesn’t push her vocals as much as she should to really belt the emotion of her songwriting. “Cold Apartment” is the one exception to this and really soars in its chorus thanks to Tamko’s thrilling harmonies. Tamko’s songs also feel too short. Lady Lamb excels at crafting multi-faceted, lengthy songs that don’t run out of steam. In contrast, Vagabon’s songs take off and make emergency landings just as they’re getting good. Also, the album’s fourth song, “Mal á L’aise”, is an absolute momentum killer. It sounds like edgier chill wave, which is obviously completely out of place on this album.
Tamko’s backstory of growing up in Cameroon and then moving to New York is very interesting. I love that she’s bringing diversity to indie rock and making music for “weird girls.” In my opinion, weird girls make the best indie rock. However, these Infinite Worlds feel very small. I’m sure they’ll expand as Tamko continues honing her craft until that label of “game changer” is accurate.