By Sophie Buckman
A propensity to be forward thinking is a rare commodity in a music industry so wrapped up in the past. With Sad Boy Indie dominating the charts with their tired brand of forlorn but blasé faux-romanticism, sincere optimism is hard to find. However, Vagabon’s debut full-length marks a potential turning point for the scene. Introspective and retrospective but still facing forwards, New York-based Laetitia Tamko has found the perfect balance between the grounded and the ethereal.
Infinite Worlds is a dazzling indie debut in which Tamko treads new ground; exploring themes which have gone relatively untouched in a scene which has only just started to grow away from its ‘white boys club’ roots. Her experiences in finding her place in a novel society translate beautifully into her music. In opener and lead single ‘The Embers’, Tamko relays a poignant message about being an outsider, being ‘so small…on the bus where everyone is tall’. ‘The Embers’ conveys sincere observations about being a ‘small fish’ surrounded by sharks. More importantly, though, it also serves as a marker of her songwriting proficiency and talents as a multi-instrumentalist. It’s a true indie banger.
On ‘Minneapolis’ Tamko mourns a sense of belonging in this feverishly fast-paced ode to a home she “can’t go back” to. As her frustration builds about this town which is ‘not [her] home’ the song builds too, culminating in an unexpectedly ferocious crescendo and a highlight of the album.
Infinite Worlds has a lot more to offer than just guitar heavy indie staples though. ‘Mal à L’aise’ is a dream-pop beauty sung divinely in Tamko’s native french. Overflowing with ethereal synths, Vagabon manages to create a perfect synergy between her hushed spoken french and a sample from a Steve Sobs song on which she was featured. ‘Mal à L’aise’ means ‘discomfort’, but musically this track relays anything but that: it is a cohesive, stalwart, musical collage.
Tamko finishes with a stripped down acoustic song; a cathartic closer about finally reaching a goal of feeling at home in a society which seemed impenetrable at first. She sets a new goal for herself, declaring that she will ‘make a home that is [her] own’ in this city she fervently declared she wanted to leave on ‘Minneapolis’. Lætitia Tamko changes and grows throughout the album, from a fiery declaration of resentment to a lucid state of optimism. Her narrative turns from a backwards view to a forwards one, as she declares that she will ‘stand strong / [her] feet will drag on’ and her ‘odour will linger’. If Tamko’s aim was to leave an odour she certainly has, ‘Infinite Worlds’ is a rose scented tribute to being the odd one out, the underdog, but if she continues on this upwards trajectory Vagabon will soon be the one on top.