Life has been called—among innumerable other things—a great balancing act. It is this conundrum—the ever-elusive balance of things—that courses through Vandaveer’s fifth and career-defining LP,The Wild Mercury. Vandaveer isn’t exactly a household name. Nor is it an obscure unknown. What we have here is a band, a musical endeavor from that great swath of middle, hell-bent on continuing its quest despite myriad personal and professional challenges. The group readily admits this album was a difficult, confounding endeavor. It is also, without question, their finest effort.
Having spent the better part of their career operating as a duo, singer/songwriter Mark Charles Heidinger and vocalist Rose Guerin conferred with their longtime producer, Duane Lundy, and concluded it was time for a significant change in the creative process. They called in longtime friends and collaborators (J. Tom Hnatow, Robby Cosenza & Justin Craig) from far corners of the country for a prolonged session of sonic wayfinding. What emerged is musical alchemy—these are songs fully realized; this is Vandaveer fully formed.
The process was not without obstacles, false starts or gridlock. “ This album involved more exploration in front of the microphones, far more time in the studio as a group finding our direction,” Heidinger explains. “ At times, we wondered if the songs would ever navigate their way out of the wilderness.” The end result—a set of songs honest and wry, personal yet utterly relatable—proves that what is infeasible as a solitary journey is made possible through collective exploration. The Wild Mercury displays striking depth of field—a duality of rough edges and refinement seeking ingress to life and life only.
The album’s title is an apt allusion to the musical explorations therein, fluid and bright, reaching from the traditions of Americana into modern pop soundscapes. Heidinger’s saturated vocals alternately soothe and electrify. When paired with Guerin’s angelic, bittersweet alto, the two create quicksilver harmonies. Long the defining quality of Vandaveer’s shapeshifting sound, this amalgam comes into full focus here. And throughout, Heidinger’s undeniable gift for storytelling shines as he reflects on possibilities forfeited, on narratives yet to be formed from the raw materials of the past. These are songs from a father to a child, a musician to his muse, a bandmate to a brother—songs of parting and return, of joy and melancholy, of life with all its paradoxes, of beauty, both indelible and ephemeral.
While portions of The Wild Mercury begin as autobiography, the trajectory takes us to the cosmos, exploring universal themes in lithesome turns of phrase. Each of us, after all, is made of starstuff. We tell stories to sketch constellations out of stars, to connect the dots, to find balance. And in charting a course between cities and continents, clubs and living rooms, heads and hearts, Vandaveer shares life distilled through song, tracing the contours of memories made along the way—temporary, but beautiful.