“Indie pop” is such a tired term, but it has found its niche in describing a certain kind of modern day artist. Namely, a person or group who isn’t afraid to play guitar, but, instead, is far more committed to synthesisers and pop-related melodies. Whatever genre category most of these musicians fit into, there’s a major difficulty in trying to balance the worlds of rock and pop without conceding too far into one camp. Go too close pop and the rock aspects sound disingenuous, but go too far rock and you run the risk of losing the draw that brings the larger audiences in and keeps them on your side.
Vistas are one of the rare bands that know how to toe that line expertly, and they prove in on their latest LP, What Were You Hoping to Find?: “It’s incredibly clichéd to call album two ‘the difficult second album’ but I think that description really does ring true,” singer Prentice Robertson explains. “When I sat down at the start of 2020 to try and write some new music there was so much uncertainty in my life. Our first record wasn’t released yet and I didn’t know how that would be received or where we would end up once it was out. As 2020 progressed it would be safe to say that this sense of uncertainty grew (for obvious reasons) and I think this is where the second album came from.”
If there was uncertainty, it certainly doesn’t come through in the music. What Were You Hoping to Find is the band’s most confident and self-assured collection of songs yet, finding Vistas wholeheartedly embracing their explosive indie pop sound without concessions, caveats, or apologies. Bursting to life with the album’s title track, the band go straight for pop hooks and earworms, refusing to let up for even a second of the entire runtime of the LP.
Tracks like ‘Start Again’ and ‘Dayglow’ were early previews that the album was going to be a big fat fun summertime record. It’s not completely that way, but the reality is that Vistas have made one of the easiest albums to like of the entire year, sure to bring the group into a view for a whole new fanbase.
The most important aspect of Vistas sound is catchiness. “Pop” is not a dirty word for rock bands, and yet there are hordes of band’s that feel an unnecessary need to be purposefully obtuse in their songwriting, arranging and production. That’s not a problem for Vistas. Why shouldn’t the vocals be front and centre in the mix? Why shouldn’t synths shimmer in all their glory? Why shouldn’t the drums sound like shotguns? Why shouldn’t there be backing vocals that sugarcoat the melody in harmony?
Vistas have enough faith in their sound and songwriting that they don’t feel the need to hide behind pretentious cliches or hide from their “heart on the sleeve” lyrics. If being young and uncertain about the future is the rock and roll gift that keeps giving, Vistas embrace the joyousness and excitement of having the entire world at your fingertips. ‘Young Forever’ is the clearest example, finding eternal youth in true love. It’s not naive: it’s celebratory, optimistic and earnest, three traits that you’ll really find paired together in modern indie rock.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for maturity or coming of age wisdom. All of the songs on What Were You Hoping to Find? balance out their wide-eyed enthusiasm with shades of desire and longing, whether it be for a more grown-up kind of relationship or the added responsibilities that come with adulthood.
“Looking for some kind of answer is the common thread that runs through this album,” Robertson adds. “On our debut, we focused on the transition from our teenage years into adulthood and on this album we asked the question: ‘now that you’re here, what it is that you want?’. All the tracks on this record look at something where uncertainty plays a large role and we felt the title What Were You Hoping to Find? summed up the sentiment of the album as a whole. We ask a lot of questions across this album and I think it has helped us to answer them for ourselves.”
As the album presses on, it becomes less and less sure that the excitement of youth is going to last. Oddly enough, this is where Vistas double down on their sure-headedness and insistence to take on the world. The album’s final track, ‘The Love That You Leave Behind’, openly wonders about what happens after the rose-coloured glasses come off. “Open the door, try to explore every meaning/Can’t take any more, it’s easy to say as you’re leaving.”
What Vistas stumble upon is that keeping a certain amount of joie de vivre is the best way to move forward. What Were You Hoping to Find? finds a band not just at their exuberant peak but facing a crossroads of the future. If this album is any indication, it seems like the joy and excitement that is so infectious in their music is here to stay, and we’re all the better for it.