Vinnie Caruana must really have a lot of time on his hands – or at least a lot of inspiration in his head and heart. Between touring with I Am the Avalanche and putting out an EP with Peace’d Out, you’d wonder where he’d find the time to pen solo work. But alas, the fruit of his labor has surfaced in a sweetly somber EP by the name of City By the Sea. Yet, even if it may have crossed your mind that Caruana might be burning himself out, the guy’s debut sounds quite polished and confident in the mix of him writing with quite different outlets. Yes, his songwriter vibe is familiar and complemented well by charming instrumentation, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t aim straight for the heartstrings in the process.
Through these six tracks, Caruana puts in front of us a heartfelt, yet fairly straightforward look on life through the eyes of love, loss and just getting through the everyday grind. “To Be Dead and in Love” hits a particular stride with a slow strum and some rather personally slanted lyrics, while “Somehow the World Keeps Turning” does likewise lyrically while brimming with a mid-tempo energy that begs to be sung along to from line one. While there isn’t anything too adventurous or out-in-left-field about this EP, it’s easy enough to hear the strength and assuredness in Vinnie’s voice and guitar playing, whether he is just strumming along or has a short list of instruments to back him up.
Accompanying him and his guitar is a mix of piano lines, handclaps and a handful of percussion additions the make these songs feel much more rounded out. “Boy, You’re in Heaven” in particular benefits from this fine-tuning, as the emphasized backbeat and melodic key breaks complement the song nicely. On the flip, the added piano lines in “To Be Dead and in Love” do a similar act but in a bit more subtle way through the first half of the song – all before using some 3/4 drums to try and anchor the lead-up to the ending. It’s a bit of a distraction when it isn’t quite needed to help propel the song forward, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt the flow of the songwriting either.
But through this EP, it is more than apparent that Vinnie Caruana can not only write admirable, semi-folksy solo jams, but he can do it with a lyrical twist that helps him feel a bit more personal to his end of the equation than some singer-songwriters are willing to go. And for me, and arguably most of the people who will listen to this, that makes City By the Sea a strong debut and a solid addition to a discography that seemingly grows with each passing year.