Dear Vincent's These Boots Will Take Me Far From Here EP (and this weekend's release show) represent the closing of a chapter: Vocalist Bryan Steel will soon start a three-year stint in the military. Until the band regroups, fans can take solace in this brief but loaded EP. Here continues the correspondence the band started on last year's So Long Winter EP, a conversation between Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo. On this new EP the story line is a bit more diffuse; you don't have to know much about the Dutch master to enjoy well-mannered and cinematic folk songs. But even if the band is still continuing on the same narrative arc, its sound has become bigger and bolder this time around.
Part of this can be attributed to Dear Vincent's expanded lineup; it's now recording as a six-piece. Steel still guides these songs with an unshakably deep tenor voice, but his bandmates take a looser approach to the arrangements. Plucky slapback guitar notes and jaunty whistles attend the opening of "Science of Slumber," which builds to a trumpet-led march with a fair bit of sunshine. Likewise, lead-off track "The Sculptor of Cyprus" undercuts the mournful, decaying ambient textures and rainstorm percussion with shanty-worthy accordion riffs and trebly guitar upstrokes. Between this nuance and the band's fearless performances, Here is a fully realized version of Dear Vincent's vision.
But the group works best with an undercurrent of drama, something the closing track "A Will for the Living" delivers. Heavy piano chords, overdriven guitar lines and a gradually swelling coda suggest that it builds pretty songs just to see what it takes to tear them apart.