Besides their sweet, depressing, sing-a-long style single “Maybe I’ll Feel Better When I’m Dead” previewed a month ago, the studio debut of The Vernes announces new talent in the indie-pop mold of early Death Cab For Cutie with a bit of the post-punk sound and world-weariness of The Weakerthans.
All of the associations I can think of are good ones. The second song “1994” cribs its opening melody from Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song).” And while it never soars into that rarified air of rock perfection, it gains altitude from its slow intro to smooth guitar solo conclusion never losing the intimacy and gentle sadness that characterizes The Vernes’s sound.
Another favorite is the third song. A short one called “Murder in D Flat” and the part to pay attention to is the shift from a slide guitar melody, relaxing and somnolent, to the brief drum build and the quick call of “Softly and slowly!” a pitchy voice cracking above the instruments transitioning into a rock ending. It’s a beautiful contrast.
On “MTV Revisted” the static is turned up to 10 and over a math rocky melody, lead singer Matthew Gragg borrows a loudspeaker and crackles out some spoken word style singing. I don’t know what he’s saying, but I dig the jam.
Other highlights are the rock tune “Highway Lines”- prerequisite ode to the road repairing what’s broken and then finally, the final song, aptly named “Tired Shoes.” It begins with a lonely piano and then a menagerie of instruments all sounding a bit off and reminding me of Bright Eyes’s “Road to Joy” when Conor Oberst calls out “I could’ve been a famous singer if I had someone else’s voice / but failures always sounded better / let’s fuck it up boys: make some noise!” and what emerges is a beautiful cacophony. The same happens here: of the voice, unique but potentially polarizing, of the music, creative and unafraid.
The Vernes have created a great album of indie music. From their subdued instrumentation to the songwriting they give me the confidence that their future is bright with so much room to grow.