Standout Track: No. 2, “Mis Rajh,” a meandering, six-minute lament from VEDAS, a duo (Alex Lee and Andrew Monborne, juniors at American University and Washington University in St. Louis, respectively) that started making music together as students at Arlington’s Yorktown High School. “Mis Rajh,” from VEDAS’ debut EP, opens with a fluttering of electronic lint, like the chirping of robotic crickets, that lingers under Lee’s round-edged falsetto and Monborne’s spare percussion as they draw out some melancholy, reverb-heavy dream pop that’s just as suited to a behind-the-wheel sobfest as a dorm room make-out party.
Musical Motivation: “Caught between two different lives/A place you can’t call your own/No matter now/A side to win or lose,” Lee murmurs on “Mis Rajh.” The shadowy lyrics belie a fairly banal backstory: Lee wrote the song about his decision to join a frat at AU. “I never fathomed being in a fraternity, with all the frat bro connotations,” he says. “I was really torn apart between being a part of this organization or going on with my life as it was. It kind of like either taking a risk or playing it safe.” (Spoiler: He’s now a happy, well-adjusted member of Sigma Chi.)
Connect Five: Exhume’s tracks are lined up in the same order as VEDAS wrote them, giving listeners a peek into the duo’s thought process—and learning curve. The EP isn’t meant for an iTunes library on shuffle: Each of the five songs is bracketed by ambient bookends that bridge it to the adjacent tracks. A formally trained cellist, Lee says orchestral pieces like symphonies and suites inspired the smooth transitions. “I wanted to try to translate that classical concept to indie music,” he says. The concept may be old-school, but VEDAS’ tight, earnest execution is as fresh as a newly minted frat brother.