Soft Nostalgia: a Listen to “Shadowbox Champion” by Blue Vines
If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know how #blessed I am to be surrounded by incredibly kind and supportive musicians and Blue Vines is no exception. Nick has supplied me with many a kind twitter interaction and I was excited to give “Shadowbox Champion” a listen. “Shadowbox Champion” is a classic indie punk album with some sprinklings of early emo influence throughout. Tasty guitar tidbits pair with splashy cymbals. Layered vocals swim through nostalgic, thoughtful lyrics. The album has a lot of basement show charm and made me miss the days where I huddled in a dingy room with a PBR even more than I already do at this point, over a year into the pandemic.
“Shadowbox Champion” opens with a wooly surge. One can immediately pick up on the 90s/early 00s vibes that the album gives off with the washy drums, forward vocals, and fuzzy guitars. Overlapping lyrics and sparse harmonies on some of the tracks give the album an overall nostalgic and dreamy vibe. “Fugitive” is one of my favorite tracks with its glittering xylophone melody and toasty acoustic guitar.
Nick is a consummate musician and played every instrument, wrote, and sang on every track, as well as engineering all of the tracks other than “Tights in Dress Weather” and “Fugitive”. The lyrical content on “Shadowbox Champion” is my favorite part of the album. “Brittle bones/Brazen man/Bear the weight of the world if you can/Or else, shrug it off” from “Tights in Dress Weather” has delicious alliteration and hits hard. Storytelling is a focal point of this album and each moment feels close, honest, and personal.
One thing that I wish had been better executed on “Shadowbox Champion” is the overall production. There are moments that feel wonky — levels are strange, sometimes the tuning is a little off, certain things are too thin or unclear. The album was recorded over the most isolated months of the pandemic, and I can understand how one person doing almost everything alone could lend to the rougher parts being how they are. The difference in mix between tracks 2 and 7 and the rest of the album is pretty stark. For an album almost entirely written, performed, and produced by one person, however, “Shadowbox Champion” is great and you can tell how much effort was put into the album.
I encourage you to support Blue Vines on Bandcamp here: https://bluevines.bandcamp.com/album/shadowbox-champion