Some music is just perfect for a long drive. When you think of road trip songs, most people would probably be filling their playlist with classic rock or throwback pop jams. But Golden Vessel takes us on a different kind of road trip, exploring quiet introspection on smooth and relaxed songs across his sophomore album colt.
Golden Vessel is the project of Brisbane musician/producer Maxwell Byrne. Since 2015 he's been wowing audiences with his chilled blend of electronica, indie pop and R&B. Following two successful EPs he dropped his debut album SLOWSHINE mid last year.
With a slow, drawn out build-up and a house-influenced style utilising a four-to-the-floor kick and various drum and synth loops, the way ['blinker'] continually evolves is just like dopamine in musical form.
He wasted no time in following up, writing songs before and during touring for the debut, and it's now culminated in the release of his second full-length project colt. It's self-released via sumoclic, the record company he co-owns with his good friend and long-time collaborator Connor Grant a.k.a. Akurei, who also features on a couple of tracks on the album.
The track-list is packed with collaborations from a bunch of feature artists, as we've come to expect from Golden Vessel at this point in his musical career. The supporting cast of the album includes Akurei along with Mallrat, Emerson Leif, The Nicholas and Rei so La. But unlike on SLOWSHINE, which featured at least one guest artist on every single track, Golden Vessel sings a handful of these songs purely solo.
His trademark deep vocals carry tracks like the lowkey opener 'besides you' and lead single 'midwest'. These songs and 'diesel' start the album off strongly in its first three tracks before the features begin with 'littlebitwild', a duet with Mallrat. Like much of fellow Brisbane native Mallrat's music, this little tune is a very cutesy and twee electronic indie pop number.
The single has a very sentimental and nostalgic feeling, created by its honest, introspective lyrics over minimalist production. The chemistry between Golden Vessel and Mallrat and the juxtaposition of the former's husky voice and the latter's more melodic and youthful delivery gives the duet a cool big brother & little sister sort of vibe. The two are good friends in real life so it's easy to see why they combine so well together on the track.
From there the album only gets better with the added features and a couple of bigger tracks, both in terms of length and musical ambition. Up next in the track-list is 'there', featuring Emerson Leif. Seeing these two join forces is always an exciting prospect for fans of either artist, as their previous collabs have all been something special. In particular, their 2018 single 'Hesitate' stands out as a clear highlight in each of their respective discographies. Unfortunately they don't strike the same gold here, as this track acts as more of a lowkey interlude at barely over two minutes long.
But any kind of disappointment is immediately erased by the next track, 'blinker'. At just over five minutes, it's the longest of the eleven tracks here and serves as a centrepiece for the album. With a slow, drawn out build-up and a house-influenced style utilising a four-to-the-floor kick and various drum and synth loops, the way this song continually evolves is just like dopamine in musical form.
More highlights follow with the single 'that's us' and the album's second longest track, 'a good night'. This song uses a jangling, rhythmic guitar lead, flickering synths and programmed drums, which kind of sounds like what would be the result of combining both parts of Frank Ocean's 'Nights' into one single song. It also features beautiful vocal parts from Akurei and a sweeping trance-like synth produced by another one of Golden Vessel's frequent contributors lonelyspeck.
The next two tracks, 'colorado', another short and sweet interlude-style cut, and 'stateside', again featuring Akurei, continue the lyrical themes of travelling and longing from 'midwest' earlier in the album. These two shorter tracks make for a nice one-two punch before the album ends on the sentimental 'forever' which utilises a Ricky Eat Acid sample and features a small but impactful feature from Mallrat.
If you're the kind of person who likes visuals along with their music, you can pair this album with the full album-length visualiser Golden Vessel also released, titled 'eyes on the road'. It features a collage of driving footage, all of which he took himself, which wonderfully complements the music and lyrics of the album.
"colt is a road trip album", Golden Vessel explains. "I started it at home in Brisbane before a busy year of touring my debut album SLOWSHINE. A lot of those initial songs were sort of written in anticipation of travelling across America and driving hundreds of hours. I also kept writing whilst touring & traveling and the album sort of picked up a narrative of being away from people you care about, and trying to make the distance & time zone differences work."
This theme of travelling is scattered across a number of tracks, most notably 'midwest', where he sings about his desire to rent a car and travel across the American Midwest.
I wanna rent a car and drive across the Midwest / It was just a test, I still think you are the best / I don’t want to let you down, I just want to pass this town
Lyrics in other songs including 'diesel', 'that's us', 'colorado' and 'stateside' also either directly reference travelling or tie into the theme. It really makes colt feel more like a journey than just a collection of songs. Which is impressive considering the album's somewhat brief duration of just under 35 minutes. Despite the album's short runtime it's far from a shallow listening experience.
The 11 tracks on colt may feature a host of different voices and contain influences from multiple styles and genres, but despite this it's a very focused and cohesive album. Golden Vessel has evolved from his already fantastic debut in terms of songwriting and lyricism, making poignant songs that piece together to create a charmingly connected concept, and an album that as a whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.