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Underrated Artist: Chad VanGaalen


Eerie, trippy, banjo-infused indie at its best

A few years ago, I heard a song called “Rabid Bits of Time,” a little ditty by an artist from the Great White North.

I discover many of my favorite songs from trailers, and this one was no different (I can’t actually remember what film the trailer was for anymore, and I never even watched the movie, but if I remember correctly, creepy Revenge chick Emily VanCamp starred in it).

Usually, though, I’ll hear a song and love it, but then I’ll listen to more songs by the same artist and be unimpressed. This was what made Chad VanGaalen stand out: his stuff only got better from the song that introduced me to him.

It’s kind of hard to pin down exactly what genre VanGaalen’s music is, but I would probably place it under the “indie” umbrella. It splinters from there, going everywhere from slightly country banjo-tastic to futuristic synth bleep-o-rama.

Essentially what I’m getting at is this: you may not love everything he does, but with such a wide array of styles on any given album, chances are you’ll find at least one VanGaalen song you’ll enjoy.

Underlying the varying styles is a unique, interesting voice, and a general feeling of tripped out creepiness. VanGaalen sings in a very high pitch, which, combined with a sort of sense of dread, makes for a slightly disturbing atmosphere in his music. This may sound like I’m knocking it, but trust me, I’m not; it works very well.

Without further ado, I’m going to take you, dear reader, on a journey through your inner-ear’s psyche and share some of my favorite songs from this great artist.

“Burn 2 Ash”

Like this pile of trash inside my head
You can let it burn 2 ash and see what’s left
I would hope for true love, not a pair of handcuffs
I would hope for true love
Oh yeah, oh yeah

This is one of VanGaalen’s easier songs to comprehend. Some of his lyrics get particularly ambiguous, but the message here is simple. That, combined with a more upbeat tempo makes for a surprisingly pleasant song (something he doesn’t often go for).


You can soothe my mind with your silence,
Oh Sara, I hear you calling me…
Sara, wake me up when you’re home
Ah, Sara, wake me up when you’re home.

Okay, I may be underplaying the complex lyrics with my favorite song choices right now, because this one is pretty easy to figure out, too. Anyway, I like it. Catchy, and it also introduces VanGaalen’s famous (in my head, anyway) whistling.

“TMNT Mask”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask
Sunken to the rocks, plastic face half-buried
The stone bottom bumps out a rhythm
It sings the same song that it’s always been singing

So far, you may be confused by the description I gave VanGaalen, since both the previous songs have a similar sound. Well, here’s one that sounds awfully different. You get what I meant by “futuristic synth beats” now, don’t you? Not only does it sound futuristic, it works in childhood nostalgia and harmonica. Who can’t love that? Okay, very possibly many people since this dude isn’t more famous, but I digress…

“Bare Feet on Wet Griptape”

Bare feet on wet griptape I put it in the mail
I send it to my sister, I send it to my sister
Tell her all my secrets, I tell her all my thoughts

My final recommendation is a more traditionally punk-lite choice. And yay, it’s a little more lyrically complex, too! Catchy and guitar-driven, one of my favs.

I’ll conclude this post with a general album recommendation. The last two songs I discussed above come from VanGaalen’s third album, Soft Airplane.

VanGaalen is known for the fact that his first two albums were collections of various songs he’d recorded at home over the course of several years. Soft Airplane was the first thing he put together with the thought of composing a cohesive album in mind, and in my opinion it really shows. The album is way more connected than his first two.

With that, I am done. Hopefully, someone out there will check these songs and album out, like the artist, and get him slightly more famous. He deserves it.