Vulfpeck’s newest album, Mr Finish Line, feels so built for a musical that it’s a tragedy there’s no screenplay to accompany it. Everything about it sounds like the soundtrack to a Broadway performance: punchy, rich, playful and emotional all at once. Coming in short at just 35 minutes, Vulfpeck is still able to create a memorable listen. If a screenplay were to be made…
Act 1: Playful
Mr Finish Line is the most fun album you will listen to all year. Title track “Mr. Finish Line (feat. Christine Hucal & Theo Katzman)” is a delightfully absurd track complete with falsetto singing and raspy vocals. To top it off, a sports broadcaster reminiscent of Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” makes a quick appearance. Immediately afterwards comes “Tee Time,” a bouncy instrumental that sounds like a cross between a chase scene in a silent movie and an early-90s Sega Genesis video game. The preposterous peak comes when Vulfpeck is “climbin’ Mount Cleverest on a Wim Hof” on closing track “Captain Hook (feat. Baby Theo, Bootsy Collins & Mushy Kay).”
Everything about Mr Finish Line oozes playfulness. On one of the album’s slowest songs, “Birds of a Feather, We Rock Together (feat. Antwaun Stanley),” producer Jack Stratton is credited for performing percussion on fresh pancakes. Seriously, pancakes. Fun is ingrained in Vulfpeck’s DNA, and the longer you listen the more contagious it is.
Act II: Range of Emotion
When Vulfpeck isn’t racing for a good time, they’re able to slow down and reflect on more serious matters with ease. Despite how goofy and whimsical much of Mr Finish Line is, these somber moments flow smoothly. Somehow, the down-tempo ballad “Grandma (feat. Antwaun Stanley, David T. Walker & James Gadson)” feels right at home, nestled in-between the funky “Vulf Pack” and childish “Captain Hook.” Throughout the album, Vulfpeck ranges from “learning the hard way to be true” to “keep[ing] it fun for you and me.”
From nostalgic to no worries and from pensive to passive, Mr Finish Line displays a surprisingly well-developed emotional range while still managing to maintain a sonic cohesion. The result is a beautiful swirl of emotions and truly memorable listening experience.
Act III: Brevity
What most albums struggle to accomplish in an hour, Mr Finish Line achieves in just 35 minutes. Not a moment is wasted on such a short record, managing to flow consistently without wasting a single measure. In just over a half an hour, Vulfpeck managed to feature 10 different vocalists, and not one feels out of place. The only thing Mr Finish Line leaves you wanting is more of the music. While a longer album would have been nice, the short run time compliments the playful feel of the album and makes for an easy listen that keeps you coming back for more.
Mr Finish Line is brief, brave, energetic, ecstatic, melancholy, majestic and overall well-worth your time. It’s a great introduction to Vulfpeck and a great album in its own right.