EP REVIEW: ‘The Ruins’ by Vista

For a band with really no mainstream media attention, it’s genuinely surprising to see how far Vista have come in such a short time. Leveraging the pop-rock ecosystem with a string of singles pulling in darker tones and harsher electronic palettes is one thing, but being able to translate that into a noticeably growing profile that only seems to get more dedicated by the day feels like an impressively significant goal to hit for ostensibly a new act. A lot of that can easily be attributed to vocalist Hope with a vocal range that can effortlessly hit the soaring drama such a sound demands and the sort of marketing savvy that proves invaluable in the modern age, but ambition is also a factor, and with newest EP The Ruins arriving as the first in an upcoming trilogy of releases, there’s a lot to be impressed about when it comes to forward planning and how that’s panned out for Vista already.

Still, that can feel rather par for the course in pop-rock especially, and it’s another matter entirely to be able to concretely make something from said ambition. That doesn’t seem to be a problem here though, as The Ruins on its own feels suitably above and beyond prior expectations in a way that’s definitely fitting with the larger project it’s heralding. There’s clearly been a lot more that’s gone into this than with most, and a couple of hiccups along the way aren’t even nearly enough to throw Vista off a course that feels meticulously planned out, but also decidedly their own. Alongside some of its genre counterparts, The Ruins simply shows the desire to pull off more with much greater frequency, and in an impressively constant fashion.

For one, The Ruins shows a deeper dive into the process of grief and the revelation of human shortcomings during it than most pop-rock bands are willing to, framed around the passing of Hope’s father and the attempts made to heal that only exposes further damage and weaknesses between the surface. There’s definitely vulnerability shown in After Death where, on a line like “Would you be angry at the daughter lately I’ve become?”, the awareness of the vices and how much of a part they play in the grieving process come to the surface, but with the escapism that devolves into self-medication on Sin City, and the contentment to wallow in feelings of pity and self-destructiveness on I Don’t Need Help despite those around her trying to help, the portrayal of a damaged person not trying to gloss over the reality of a situation does feel refreshing. Even on the closer Novocaine, where the desire for closure and forgiveness is laid out bare, it’s still a realisation of how much of an effect the consuming vice has had, and to actively seek distance from it, regardless of how downtrodden such a plea might feel, is a move towards progress that’s well-earned.

That level of thematic richness is a pretty daunting hurdle to scale on its own, and it’s to Vista’s enormous credit that they’ve packed as much into The Ruins as they have, though it’s generally a case of the production that’s holding them back from embracing something really great that’s in their grasp. That’s not referring to the decisions made to stand as polished and unashamedly widescreen as pop-rock gets either, but primarily small things that don’t quite coalesce as part of the bigger picture as well as they could. The guitars on After Death could use a fair bit more bulk to them, especially when paired with the colossal, imposing percussion that only drowns them out further, and the odd hiss that runs through I Don’t Need Help seemingly in place of more bombastic natural elements really doesn’t need to be there when it’s only going to be masked by the cinematic strings anyway. These really are only small issues as well, but they do stand out against a musical canvas that, generally, does work within the vision that Vista have. The shades of PVRIS in the more synthetic presentation are unavoidable (particularly in the rippling slow-burn of Novocaine), but there’s definitely a radio-rock backbone to this EP that, in the vast, ponderous production and touches of underlying tension and aggression, provide a surprisingly stable foundation that’s able to keep its balance pretty much throughout. The missteps do ultimately betray this as an independent release with comparatively limited means, but as far as breaking into the world of big-budget rock goes, it doesn’t appear as though much needs to be changed; Vista do know what they’re doing on the whole, and it’ll only take a minor push to make the most of it.

That’s a rare thing to see in bands as small as Vista, but the results speak for themselves at the end of the day, and The Ruins sees an act on track to really achieve some great things. They’re leaps and bounds ahead in terms of resonance and emotional openness in the stakes of pop-rock, and when that’s married to an instrumental foundation that captures that punch and power, the results might only be brief but they achieve a lot. Areas do need to be tidied up, of course, but that’s not too much to complain about when everything else is so resoundingly solid, and the majority of threads laid down are satisfyingly tied up by the end of it all. By all accounts, this does feel like the start of something a lot bigger, and the two follow-up EPs to come are only going to reinforce how far Vista can go before it’s impossible to sit up and take notice.


For fans of: PVRIS, Anavae, Halflives
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘The Ruins’ by Vista is out now.

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