If there’s one thing that’s keeping Vista continually moving forward at pretty decent clip, it’s the promise of ambition. They’ve been shooting for the stars within pop-rock effectively since the beginning, amassing a surprisingly loyal fanbase in the process (even if they’re still firmly outside the larger music media ecosystem) and organically building a platform to meet those bigger targets that so many young bands will boast but rarely make good on. And thus, while it’s admittedly a bit surprising to see The Repair drop not even four months after its predecessor The Ruins, the fact that it’s here at all is a key signifier for how Vista’s larger plan is falling into place. It’s the second of three concept EPs surrounding vocalist Hope’s coping methods after the loss of her father, something that The Ruins established really well in its blend of pop-rock fine-tuning with cinematic scope and darker radio-rock unsettlement. It was certainly a more mature take on a sound that’s frequently dismissed for its shallowness, and set a precedence for hopefully more of the same in the series’ subsequent installments.
And when considered in the context of this larger release plan, The Repair feels like a worthy sequel; Vista continue to zero in on their darker tendencies and tailoring their particular quarter of theatricality and melodrama to complement it. But as a piece of work in itself – and indeed, when in direct competition with its predecessor – The Repair isn’t quite as good, and that’s by virtue of some rather noticeable shortcomings that were even present the first time around and are even more glaring here. It’s a shame that proves such an immovable roadblock as, conceptually, The Repair is just as good of a next step and feels like the necessary next leg of the narrative, but it’s definitely the weaker body of work of the two.
But even among that, there’s still a whole lot that Vista get right here. For one, the resilience and hard edges that Hope has gained in the interim feels like real character development here, as she moves past her self-destructiveness and looks to become stronger for it. Dirty Laundry serves as the clearest revelatory moment as she breaks out of the exile within herself, ready to move on by cutting out the toxic people in her life on No Nostalgia and, on Dear John, confronting the memory of her father instead of using it as an excuse to ruin her own life. There’s a clear defiance in Hope’s voice here as well, especially in the initial rising up of Crutches and Dirty Laundry that’s heavily shaded with triumph and determination, as the cinematic strings and production soar and crash behind her. At its best it’s phenomenally potent, erring on the more synthetic side of the pop-rock spectrum but not being bound by anything too saccharine, instead tapping into a hard rock mindset that’s a lot grander and more widescreen. It’s where Vista’s strongest suits have lied for a while now, and while The Repair isn’t necessarily doing anything new with them, it still has the potential to hit far harder than most can muster.
Notice how that’s potential though, as that’s worth stressing with The Repair. Throughout, the hooks and the soaring arena-rock vibe are there, but it’s not quite as full-force on Vista’s end as it perhaps could be. That was the primary complaint about The Ruins too, in how the instrumental power couldn’t live up to what was being projected elsewhere, and unfortunately the same is true about The Repairs, especially in the guitar work on a track like No Nostalgia which could afford to really roar instead of serve as a rather inert presence behind strings, synths and percussion that have that necessary body. They’re not consistent shortcomings either, exemplified by the odd bodilessness of the drums on Crutches that sound really flat, and it turns what could’ve been another blockbuster-sounding release into something a fair bit cheaper. It’s frustrating to say as well, as Vista do get a lot right in the enormous vibe they cultivate with an effortlessness and effectiveness that suggests they could have greatness in this vein within them, but The Ruins does sound like a smaller band trying to accomplish big things as opposed to the professional, fully-formed way that Vista had previously carried themselves.
It’s unfortunate that has to be said as well, as Vista have so many ideas within them that they execute so well, but The Repair is definitive evidence of how just one loose thread can unravel so much of what those ideas look to achieve. It’s not without merit – far from it, in fact, especially from a narrative standpoint that continues to really captivate – but it’s definitely a step down by highlighting areas that seriously do need going over for Vista to avoid slipping any further. That’s probably not going to happen in all honesty, as Vista do have a fairly decent grasp on where they’re going at this point, but going as big as possible and avoid playing things too conservatively is easily the way to go. They’ve got all the skills to do it, and as they’ve already proved both here and in their previous material, there’s enough ambition can facilitate something great from it.
For fans of: PVRIS, Halflives, Courage My Love
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Repair’ by Vista is released on 14th February.