Monday, February 25, 2008

H is for Hello, Blue Roses

I know that Destroyer is not everyone's cup of tea, and that some have called the music Dan Bejar makes 'pretentious.' Certainly with an album title like The Portrait Is Finished And I Have Failed To Capture Your Beauty, Bejar's latest project Hello, Blue Roses (with partner Sydney Vermont) charges of pretentiousness are likely to surround this project as well.
But even if you don't like Destroyer (though really - how can you not like Rubies?) I'd still recommend giving Hello, Blue Roses a listen. Bejar certainly contributes to the album but Vermont is the real creative force here. Her vocals are front-and-centre right from the beginning (the first lines of the album? "Hello blue roses...") and remain there throughout.

Influences cited by the band and comparisons made in reviews I've read so far cite Kate Bush and Vashti Bunyan, and certainly one can hear both these women in Vermont, but I'd like to add Catherine Howe to the comparison list. Listening to Howe's What A Beautiful Place and placing it alongside The Portrait Is Finished... I hear the same wistful phrasing and delicate musical accompaniment.
Bejar meanwhile sings from the shadows, contributing not so much 'backing vocals' as 'vocal embellishments' for much of the record. But when he comes into the light, the material benefits greatly. Consider "Shadow Falls," where Bejar's echoes of the song's title provides the dark counterpoint to Vermont's airy delivery while Bejar's ringing guitar tones turn discordant at the two-minute mark. The song perfectly encapsulates what this duo can accomplish together when their contributions are matched. Which is not to say that when Vermont is having her way it's not still a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

The album was written in sunny Spain and recorded in rainy Vancouver and it bears mentioning because The Portrait Is Finished... balances the cheery with the bleak in tone and lyrics. This is an album where "Heron Song," with its simple acoustic guitar and flute line is followed by "St. Angela," which features the type of vamping organ Garth Hudson was famous for while a mandolin plays out a wonderfully rollicking line.

Here's "Shadow Falls"

And here's the Hello, Blue Roses website and Myspace page.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

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