Victoria Vigenser’s The Gap is a strong debut. Accompanied by Lindsay Martin on the fiddle (and occasional backing vocals), opening and title track ‘The Gap’ sets the scene for the 13-track Celtic-sounding Kiwi album.
“And that’s how the gap grows.”
Joined by a cast of musicians, including James Geluk from The Frank Burkitt Band, Tony Burt and Karen Jones from Across the Great Divide, Chris Dent (Albi and the Wolves) and Jess Bailey (Fables), Vigenser weaves tales of inequality on the streets of the cities (‘The Gap’ and ‘Homeless Song’), sings of Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi (‘Aylan Lying’) and of love (‘City Girl’) across the album.
The Gap cements itself in the long history of traditional folk music that highlights the problems of the world, while also remaining uniquely Kiwi.
Victoria joins the ranks of The Eastern, Reb Fountain, Jordan Reyne and other Kiwi artists in writing the strong folk anthems of people and issues.
I first listened to the album at work – an open plan office – and was almost reduced to tears three songs in, particularly ‘Nobody Said’.
“I never thought growing could make you so tough.”
But it’s ‘Aylan Lying’, placed 11th on the track list, that is the stand-out song of the record. Based off the news story of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy “on the beach”, the song is potentially one of the best songs about the Syria situation, with phrases like,
“Let guilt not be the thing that makes us human” and “It’s a funny old world that won’t provide for him”.
Other highlights of the album include the ‘Homeless Song’, full of violin and a lyrical painting of life on the streets, ‘Blessing Song’ for a child yet to be born.
“You’ll laugh at the breaking down of the walls of the world.”
‘City Girl’, with phrases including “I saw you from a distance and I thought you were pretty” and stunning harmonies.
Closing track ‘Drag You Down’ is a musically-upbeat, lyrically-downbeat track. Victoria told the audience at Whare Flat Folk Festival it was written about a friend’s partner, whom, when played to said friend, had not appreciated the “you’re better than that” sentiment towards the song’s subject. As a forever-critical listener of album closing tracks, this one appeases me nicely, providing a nice, musically-upbeat end to a record full of the realities of life.
My one critique of this record is that the stand-out tracks are placed at polar ends of the album, instead of spread throughout. This is not to fault the other songs on the record, but scattering songs like ‘Aylan Lying’, ‘Homeless Song’, ‘The Gap’ and ‘Nobody Said’ across the album instead of at each end could have improved the balance.
But I can’t fault the track list itself, releasing a 13-track LP is a great success, particularly as a debut, and overall The Gap is a stunning first record.
I hope it gets the recognition it deserves.