25 Oct 2021

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Vera Ellen - Album Review: It's Your Birthday

07 Oct 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

Vera Ellen (Girl Friday, Maple Syrup) is back in Wellington after some time in Los Angeles, where she wrote most of the material which can now be found on her debut for Flying Nun Records. Written over the space of a few years, the album captures a time in Vera’s early Twenties where she was going through extremes of emotions. The demos were recorded at the beginning of 2020 over a couple of days at Pyramid Club before Vera headed back to America, only for her to return a short while later. It was then that she added some more instrumentation, and is now sharing it with the world.

What really makes this album work is the feeling of innocence combined with a simple naivety, which together provide a strong sense of honesty. At times it feels like a stream of consciousness in that she seems almost to have picked up whatever instrument was closest to hand as she needed to express her feelings before the moment was passed. Each song is very different to the next, yet through them all is this feeling of independence, of perfectly formed melodies and creativity. The debut single from the album is YOU!, but pretty much every song on the album could have been lifted, and they would all suit the radio.

Some of the sounds are wonderfully dated, with The Language of Flowers coming across as mix of early 90’s alternative and late 60’s psychedelia, not only due to keyboard sounds being utilized but the whole tenor of the vocals, with superb harmonies. Vera likes playing with her voice, so it can have an edge here, or be breathy there, pure and clean in one place or playing with being offkey on another. There is a simplicity within each song, but the complexity comes through with the difference in arrangements and styles between them, so that when one song ends the next is awaited in eager anticipation as the only thing which is certain is that it will be different to what has just been played.

Independent, melodic, cultured, this is an alternative album which owes a great deal to the 90’s and 80’s with hints of the late 60’s yet is also incredibly up to date. The standout must be the compelling, and frightening Stuck w Me, which Vera recorded solo. There is so much pain in her vocals, which are accompanied just by a simple strummed guitar, and the lyrics cut deep. It sounds as if she was literally crying into the microphone, mascara running down her face, and is an incredibly powerful piece of art. It feels as if she has shared her soul with us, and that we are intruding on a very special moment indeed. This is a great album, and I am so looking forward to seeing her live.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )


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