What’s more befitting when thinking of summertime and getting a good rest, than long vacations and relaxed indie pop music playing in the background? While Altanta, GA’s Lunar Vacation can’t book trips to far off places for its fans, the open-minded four piece group – more interestingly self-described as “pool rock” – can definitely supply part of the soundtrack to this summer’s steady resumption of social activities. The band’s latest work, a new single titled “Shrug,” slides right into the slot of highly enjoyable summer picks but beyond that, the track also serves as the band’s introductory debut with new label, Keeled Scales, as well as the band’s first piece of new music ahead of an eventual full album due for release later this year.
Lunar Vacation is:
Grace Repasky (Songwriter, Vocals, Guitar)
Maggie Geeslin (Songwriter, Vocals, Guitar)
Matteo DeLurgio (Synth)
Connor Dowd (Drums)
Those unfamiliar with Lunar Vacation need not feel like there’s a pre-requisite for getting on board with the group’s newest good-natured groove. Still, at the same time, don’t mistake “Shrug” for a chill song bearing lyricism coated in ambivalence or apathy. Despite its melodically light tonality of sliding, bent guitar tones; lively tambouring splashes; smooth, clean bass guitar and a consistently laid-back tempo that never jerks the listener forward with surprise force, “Shrug’s” conceptual core gives actualization to the previously unspoken thoughts and feelings of Grace Repasky, who, before, during, and now after the release of this song, came to embrace the idea of approaching life outside the conventions of strictly binary thinking. In fact, the song is so meaningful to Repasky that it represents a true-to-life solidified start to their individual decision to identify as non-binary.
“I look back now and realize that this song was a pivotal moment in delving into self-identity and ultimately identifying as a non-binary person,” says Repasky.
What’s especially lovely about “Shrug’s” conveyance of Repasky’s personal revelation, is in the eloquent, slightly more universal way they are able to highlight their internal dialogue and emerging feelings, without making the lyrics so individualized and so situationally nuanced that the song turns more diary page than public piece of music. Of course, that’s not to say that one style of song is better or more correct than the other – self-confessional, individually cathartic songs need not have any other purpose if that’s all that matters to the songwriter in question. Furthermore, even with especially particular personal details, plenty of anonymous public listeners can still find a wavelength with which to connect when it comes to a song of distinctly individual origins. That said, it’s applaudable how Repasky’s style of writing manages to stay true to their own emotional needs with regard to being honest with themself, while also keeping with the intended light, fun, and approachable aesthetic of Lunar Vacation’s musicality.
Is it all about the scene
Or something in between?
Invited but I’ll never show
Sit at home and playing too much Wilco
– Lyrics from “Shrug”
The lyrics above are a great example of compositional flexibility, as when given Repasky’s insight, the connection becomes clear. But even without it, there’s an understanding of a sentiment reflecting isolation – from the popular crowd, from the familiar, from the expected way of being. And for listeners who might not relate to Repasky’s specific shift to a non-binary identity, there are plenty of other ways people can be left to feel separate from others in society, left to feel distant, or otherwise like they don’t fit with the status quo and “Shrug” can be just as comforting for those listeners as it can for Repasky or anyone else specifically choosing to identify as non-binary.
Musically speaking, “Shrug” doesn’t come around looking to shock listeners with any structural misdirection. The song’s main musical hook during the verses alternates with the chorus, and neither really change, the music only giving the tiniest of pauses (literally) between the second chorus and the final line, where upon first listen, one might understandably presume the song has ended. (The way the clean toned lead rhythm guitar tapers off before the break really sounds somewhat finalizing.) But even with minimal major compositional surprises, that doesn’t mean “Shrug” is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of piece. The way the track is mixed – with its punchy but very smooth and clean bass guitar, as well as its roomy drum strikes heard across all the parts of the kit – Lunar Vacation knows just when to stop short of the line that would take this song from “chill but intriguing,” to “so awash in relaxing sonic elements to the point it loses itself.” Repasky and Geeslin’s vocals get a notable amount of reverb – often sounding like they are singing a far bit back from the mic or from within a metallically lined, spacious room.
The heavily distorted guitar heard between verses and then left to play during the song’s outtro, is tonally striking compared with the very loose and smoothly rippling vibe of the rest of the music’s arrangement. However, even that seemingly odd sonic departure makes sense given a little extra consideration, as its moderately harsher timbre, more jagged tonal edges, and prominent overlap with the rest of the band, gets combined with other effects like delay and fuzz, to give it the kind of sonic aesthetic that would be fit for the background of a vintage sci-fi film scene, complete with the landing of a space module on a far off planet in a distant galaxy. In other words: a nice indirect nod to the band’s own imaginative (or perhaps just future-minded) name. All of this together with a very mildly washed out visual aesthetic of the live footage and light pastel-colored animation in the song’s accompanying music video ties everything together with an outward facing layer of warmth and familiarity, like well-worn home movies or old phone videos that are usually reserved for a select crowd but Lunar Vacation have decided it wants to share with everyone who cares to listen and join the band on this new journey.
“Shrug” is anything but apathetic or aloof.
It’s quite the opposite in fact: alert, engaged, thoughtful, and welcoming to all.