Bull's Head, 'Vacation Dreams' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Music » Album Review

Bull's Head, 'Vacation Dreams'


Published June 19, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated June 19, 2024 at 10:58 a.m.

Bull's Head, Vacation Dreams - COURTESY
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  • Bull's Head, Vacation Dreams

(Self-released, digital)

Andy Samara is stalling, but that might be a good thing. The South Burlington singer-songwriter and producer admitted as much in an email to Seven Days. "In avoidance" of working on the full-length follow-up to Bull's Head's 2019 self-titled album, Samara wrote, he put out the fleeting but powerful EP Vacation Dreams in May.

Bull's Head showcased paternal themes — though music editor Chris Farnsworth refused to call it "dad rock" in his review — and so does the new EP. Released a month before Father's Day, the seven tracks of indie-folk sketches are meant to be heard mid-June, as kiddos embark on summer break and their papas get the royal treatment. The EP's cover captures the magical vibe with a fuzzy photo of a family posing under a gigantic, peg-legged pirate statue in a motor lodge car park full of bloated '70s sedans.

Fueled by a love of Pete Seeger's wandering, public-domain folk recordings, Samara attempts to capture "the simplicity, brevity and personal reflection" he hears in those tunes, he wrote. And he succeeds. He's honest while eschewing pure earnestness, sweet without being cloying.

Self-produced in Samara's basement, the EP is airy and crisp. He cradles acoustic guitar with ethereal synths, perfecting a golden-hour sense of stillness. He croons about fatherhood and the beautiful life he wishes for his children. Sometimes he even seems to cast himself as a child, surrounded by loving giants as he plays in the surf.

His stories are full of names. Holly, Cynthia, Arnie, Mikey, Old Fred, Mama Joe — are they all real people? Or chimeras who appear in REM sleep? Whoever they are, Samara uses them to detach the listener from expectations that "can take hold of our minds, and rob us of what's immediate and real," he wrote in his email.

On the sparkling, self-titled opener, vacation dreams happen in ordinary places: backyards, campers, old roads traversed by motorbike. The track suggests a state of mind rather than a destination.

Slow and steady "Cynthia," a low-key Polaroid snapshot, stays aloft with spouting arpeggios and carefully placed kicks and snares. Samara threads the song with longing and understanding. In choked spurts, he sings, "Cynthia, / you missed so much. / It's not hard to imagine / living how you did / with the life you had. / I might have done the same."

One of the most traditional tunes, "Bird Watching" is down-home acoustic mountain folk. The artist finds his center simply by being with his daughters in nature.

The remaining cuts reinforce the EP's through line of carefree days, sherbet sunsets and mixed emotions. Samara incorporates equatorial marimba tones ("By the Sea") and a bucket list of seasonal must-dos ("Child's Eyes") before closing with the stripped-down "Grove St.," an eyes-closed, ruminating ballad that recalls the comings and goings in a suburban "big yellow palace."

These hazy reveries are Samara's way of getting "unstuck," as he put it. We can only hope that his meandering journey, a success in its own right, will help him find his way back to unfinished work.

Vacation Dreams is available at bullshead.bandcamp.com and on major streaming services.



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