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Layered complexity and tight production Vera Blue dispels pop haters with graceful ease in lush new EP Fingertips

Vera

Boy, howdy.

Even I can sense it here, and my stunningly malnourished music career should be evidence enough that I don’t exactly have a nose for the pop appeal.

Nope; I’m clueless to the core, and yet it took all of five seconds before even this sweaty shut-in could hear the writing on the wall. Fingertips is a winning record, leaking popsmarts from the pores, and if the world has justice then Vera Blue stands to reap hefty kudos in the years to come.

This is smart, tight music. Perhaps it’ll date a little, but so will we all – for the moment though, it’s right where it needs to be.

Vera

Vera Blue has come up with a complex, tightly produced, pop soaring EP that is damn well decent. Regardless of where you stand, it’s a winning record

What strikes me first is the confidence. From the first few notes, Fingertips comes to the table with a clear and forceful aesthetic. The mixing and production of this record is just right; the soundstage is wide, and uncluttered, with plenty of room for thick, swelling choruses; the midranges hum but do not overcook; and everything is glazed in a thin ghostly sheen.

It’s fully formed, and with after a little digging, this confidence is not too surprising. You see, Vera Blue is, in another life, Celia Pavey, who a few years back got a good dose of coverage through her showing on The Voice Australia. After dispensing with the obligatory post-talent-show covers album, and the creative restrictions which that implies, she’s now emerged with a new incarnation, and a clearly defined sound which clearly demonstrates the benefit of a second swing of the bat. Fingertips has a cohesive electro-acoustic sound and an expansive outlook, and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The EP opens with its strongest track, and one which neatly shows off the range of tones that will be featured through the four other songs which follow Hold. From a modest introduction of mellow synths and pixel-art ghost calls, we witness the slow and steady introduction of dry, minimalist drums and a firm, clear-eyed vocal. The thick, low synthesisers, and the inky, fingerpicked acoustic guitars that join later are also to pop up multiple times throughout the record, notably on Fingertips and Patterns.

Second track, Settle opens with a contrasting mood which also acts as a very effective counterpoint at several instances throughout the record; a distant, mournful, semi-medieval folk atmosphere that is perhaps most evident throughout ‘Patterns’, and which brings to mind Fleet Foxes, or Goldfrapp circa Felt Mountain.

The tunes are lent a further layer of shimmer through the glitchy filtering of vocals and percussion at select intervals, something which especially helps add a little chaos to the record’s often soaring, elegiac choruses. Throw in the all-too-infrequent use of tight, melancholy layers of wordless vocal overdubs, and you’ve got a fine set of tones through which to deliver Fingerprints´ nimbly twisting melodies.

There’s still a little wiggle room for diversification here, though. Now let’s not confuse things; as a distillation of the vogue-sounds of post-guitar sadpop, Fingertips has few equals. From skittery hi-hats, to Sia-big choruses, the minor-key synth dramatics here will in time be as intimately tied to their decade of origin as the phased electric piano, or the gated snare.

That means Fingertips captures the moment perfectly; however it also means the moment may pass it by. It’s not the songwriting or performance as a whole – it’s the little touches. Like the singing for example. Blue’s voice is clear and resonant, and would sound so in any decade, but every so often it slips into the ubiquitous Adele-accent (‘said’ becomes ‘seyhd’, ‘fight’ becomes ‘feyhd’, ‘out’ becomes ‘oeyhd’ somehow) that marks so many post-2010 female vocalists. Such little slips into rote sounds are by no means dealbreakers; it’s just a little distracting each time you notice another ‘2016 moment’, even though each one is remarkably well-delivered.

Trust me though, we’ve got a nifty little record here. And you’ve gotta bear in mind who’s telling you this: I am a failed musician. With the exception of comedy writers, there is no creature more craven and spiteful than the gigless wonder. I’d rather sell my liver than praise the frontrunner, and yet here we are. Plus she’s fucking younger than me. Do you think I enjoy that? Do you know how that makes me feel? Like a premium loser, that’s how; so when I say Vera Blue’s got it, you can take it on faith that I’ve checked my sources. I’d listen to this stuff. Lots of people would, and lots of people will – and for once they’ll be on to something.

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May 27, 2016

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