When I last spoke with Vinnie Caruana a few weeks ago, he was incredibly excited to share his solo record Aging Frontman with everyone. Now that I’ve had some time to absorb everything that is in this fantastic album, Vinnie and my conversation still sticks in mind with his cautious optimism towards his outlook on not only his music, but his life and accomplishments as well. Aging Frontman on the surface is an observation of Vinnie’s outlook on his great career with bands such as The Movielife, and I Am The Avalanche, yet this solo record solidifies an even greater standing with just how accomplished a musician and songwriter Vinnie Caruana is and has become.
“Better” kicks off this set of music with one of the best songs Caruana has written in this decade. His opening statement in the song, “Unlock your tired heart / We won’t have this pain forever,” is as much of a disclaimer to the listener as it is Vinnie speaking to himself as he reflects on his well-being. The song unfolds beautifully around an acoustic guitar, and his voice sounds as powerful as it’s ever been on the heartfelt chorus. When he sings, “Do I make you better? / Have I dragged you down? / When we leave our bodies / When the rolling blackouts become permanent/ Have I made you better?” it’s tough not to feel every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears that went into this recording. Producer Brett Romnes deserves a lot of credit for making this album sound as powerful as it does, even with a total running time under 20 minutes.
My personal favorite from Aging Frontman and the current single, “Alone,” depicts a darker tone of imagery than we have come to expect from Caruana over his storied career. Through his words and vocal delivery in general, Caruana describes the feeling of being alone down to every crisp detail. The organ that sears through the vocals in the first verse of the song doesn’t differentiate much from its original tone, yet it doesn’t need to. It comes across as powerful as ever and allows the song to brood with exuberant confidence.
“Dying in the Living Room” finds Caruana further reflecting on his state of mind when he sings in the chorus, “Oh, my aching head /It’s boiling up again / And where is my heart?” This type of self-reflection is very raw and real and showcases a singer who is just as human as the next person, all with deep introspective thoughts and feelings. Other songs such as “I Love You, Please Watch Over Us” are beautifully simple in their construction, and the electric guitar played by Caruana carries a personality of its own through the instrumental track.
“Providence” then bleeds over from the instrumental song that preceded it, and allows Caruana to re-set the stage of all that he has seen and experienced. Lyrics such as, “Please don’t ask me how I know / Free from the ones / Who taught me to keep looking backwards / The beat of my heart / Tells me someday I’ll be home,” are as authentic as we’ve ever seen from Caruana.
It all boils down to the closer of “Tex ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” which in its own way is as shiny as Caruana gets on this record. All filled with a gently strummed ukulele that allows the song to feel brighter, and the context surrounding the song is filled with a sense of hope. It makes a lot of sense for this song to come last, as Caruana explained in an interview that, “These songs are medicine for me in my quest to attain mental health. I want my fans to know that I’m OK. I want them to know that I know that we are all in a battle and that we have no choice but to win.” Vinnie Caruana has crafted six songs that showcase not only his accomplishments of the past but still manage to look forward to what will come from this ultra-talented artist.