Album of the Week: Vundabar – Smell Smoke

Smell Smoke by Vundabar
Smell Smoke by Vundabar

Vundabar have found themselves reaching new heights in 2018. The act from Boston has gone from being under the radar to a band with a burgeoning following around New England and beyond. Frontman Brandon Hagen’s songwriting encompasses ‘80s era jangle pop, electrifying fuzz and artsy flair, exuding sounds that captivate the senses. Their third album, Smell Smoke, is due out Feb 23 via the band’s label Gawk Records, and it exhibits a steady progression of music both accessible and unique. There’s an intense vibe throughout the album, arising from the lyrical themes of mental and physical decline.

Smell Smoke was produced by two people in two different studios. Both Keith Abrams at The Head Room in Philadelphia and Justin Pizzoferato at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, lent their recording talents to this wonderful record. There’s a difference from Vundabar’s sophomore release Gawk that came out in 2015: This new release delves more into the conflict between grit and melody. The amplification of Hagen’s guitar adds a punch that’ll leave an enjoyable impression.

For anyone who knows me personally, they’ve heard me say it numerous times, but New England music fans are awfully lucky: Many cities around the region have amazing music scenes going on. It’s crazy to think about how much talent is in such a small place compared to the rest of the United States. Vundabar is a jewel in New England’s musical crown, and they’ll be remaining there for a while. Let’s see how this jewel shines by going in-depth with my top tracks off of the Album of the Week:


“Big Funny” rides a groove while the chorus leads up to a barrage of thunderous guitar riffs. With a driving structure, “Harvest” has drummer Drew McDonald serving as the steady base for a dramatic song; there are numerous downbeats that set the tone as well. The most avant-garde song on the album is definitely “No Person to People” – Hagen’s vocals stay at a certain level and it’s a bit all over the place with guitars and drums going at different volumes.

Vundabar will be ringing in the release of Smell Smoke with a sold-out show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA, on Mar 3 with Chicago duo Ratboys opening things up. Other upcoming New England dates of theirs include March 5 at the Wamleg in Wallingford, CT, Apr 13 at ArtsRiot in Burlington, VT, and the following night at Space Gallery in Portland, ME. Hagan and his band will be touring in support of the new album so make sure to see them live if they’re playing in a city near you. Also, grab a copy of the album when it comes out: It’s peculiarly addictive and you’ll want to listen to it over and over again.

Smell Smoke: