In some ways, A Vintage Burden may very well be the most accessible album that Charalambides have ever released. After the sometimes hair-raising Joy Shapes, the group has pared back down to the original duo of Christina and Tom Carter and gone in a slightly different direction, with more of a focus on melody and (and much less noise) overall song progression.
Considering the group has always dipped a toe into improvisational waters, several of the opening tracks on the album may feel like sort of a departure. Although the somewhat new agey lyrics threaten to hang it up, "Spring" is easily one of the most digestible things the group has ever done, with bright guitar playing that perfectly captures the title and vocals from Christina Carter that soar over it all. At under five minutes in length, "Dormant Love" sounds downright poppy from the group as strummed acoustic guitar plays out over whispy curls of electric feedback that propel the song forward during choruses that feature some great chord changes.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Charalambides album without a couple longer tracks, but even then the group moves with an urgency that keeps the release from retreating to darker passages of past work. Without a doubt, the album centerpiece is the nearly twenty-minute "Black Bed Blues," which features some of the best guitar work that I've ever heard from Tom Carter, as he moves from sparse, blues-tinged strumming, to an extended mid-section of Fahey-esque plucking and shimmering before the song closes out with some especially soulfull, wailing electric guitar.
As mentioned above, even the trajectory of the longer songs on the disc feels more composed and purposeful, and instead of shuffling off into extended drones or noise, even long tracks like the beautiful "Two Birds" feel like they're always moving forward in a way that really serves the release. Instead of exposing any weaknesses, the group has highlighted their strengths by stripping things back to their essentials for A Vintage Burden. An outstanding album from the long-running group.