Jeffery Straker sings with the unflinching attention to detail of Neil Young, but with the emotional arc of classic-era Elton John. In seamlessly stitching together these seemingly diametrically opposed things, Vagabond finds purchase in a world teaming with singer-songwriter types.
Listen on “Birch Bark Canoe” when, after a series of determinedly honest thoughts, Straker lets every piece of himself go into a falsetto-driven moment of revelatory emotion. Danny Michel’s sensitive orchestral flourishes provide billowing underpinning to the smartly redemptive “Rosetta Stone” and the tremblingly sad “Cathode Rays,” framing these songs even as they add context.
“Botanic Gardens” bristles with a specifity that recalls a great short story, more than a song — until Straker’s sweeping chorus gives way to an enveloping Brian Wilson-esque classical interlude. “Raven,” which smartly incorporates a line from a classic piece of literature, then takes darker, deeply enveloping turn.
In keeping with this album’s brilliantly layered complexity, Straker concludes with the inwardly lacerating “Myopia” and then a solo-piano lament called “Foolish.”