First up: don’t judge Vaults by that John Lewis ad. More than anything it does them a disservice; here’s a band we’ve been tracking for the last couple of years, purveyors of classy and polished electronic alt-pop with a tinge of darkness. That they open Caught In Still Life with deep bass and lines like “I don’t wanna die a little more every day” should be evidence enough that they’re more than just a Christmas fad.
All the singles are present and correct, with Cry No More and Premonitions still positing them as a sort of UK Broods (but very much with their own identity). It’s smoky songwriting that sings with the confidence of an act that have refined their sound rather than offering up a debut album.
There’s an argument that it could be too polished at times. Songs like Midnight River feel produced to within an inch of their lives, sacrificing that shrouded feel for a more obvious chart lean. But they balance it out brilliantly by sticking to what got them here in the first place – the lower registers of One Last Night, populated by a lush string arrangement, never sacrificing melody for a moment among their stylistic flourishes
Of the newer songs, there are still more hits than misses. Bloodflow and Bodies are two of their finest to date, the latter a haunting piano-driven ballad that sings “I’m afraid that I’ve built myself so tall, no one will see me when I fall”. Keeping that level of grounding is what makes this first attempt register, and what makes that twee cover tacked on the end even more disappointing. Vaults don’t need that kind of commercial exposure to make them shine, but if it pole-vaults this album to success then it’s certainly a sacrifice we can tolerate.