Hello, Blue Roses

The Portrait Is Finished and I Have Failed to Capture Your Beauty

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Please ignore the nonsensical Tennessee Williams quote of a band name and the pretentious mouthful of the album title, which between them make Hello, Blue Roses' debut album sound like it must be the most emo thing this side of Conor Oberst crying over his lost kitten. Instead, the duo of Sydney Vermont (vocals, lyrics, flute, acoustic guitar, visuals) and Dan Bejar (everything else) shares some influences with and surface similarities to the current "new weird folk" underground, in that it seems like now-hip '60s and '70s acts like Judee Sill, Vashti Bunyan, and the Incredible String Band might be among Vermont and Bejar's influences. ("Heron Song," with its delicate acoustic folk melody and woody flute interjections, is the most obvious nod to the style.) But the key influence on The Portrait Is Finished and I Have Failed to Capture Your Beauty seems to be Kate Bush, whose appealingly over the top, ultra-dramatic vocal style sounds like Vermont's primal influence; though she has nowhere near Bush's epic vocal range, Vermont gently echoes the British art rocker's singular phrasing throughout the album. Bejar's own inimitable vocal style, the centerpiece of his albums as Destroyer and his contributions to the New Pornographers, is largely limited to harmonies, although one of the album's most immediate highlights, the hypnotic and synth-driven "Shadow Falls," is fundamentally a duet. (The name of sophisticated 1980s chamber pop masters Prefab Sprout is omnipresent in Hello, Blue Roses' press materials, but this graceful, lovely lullaby is the only song here that truly suggests a direct influence.) So basically, The Portrait Is Finished and I Have Failed to Capture Your Beauty blends influences from two generally antithetical musical subgenres -- hippie psych-folk and '80s U.K. art pop -- into a languid, low-key whole that's perfect for both lazy, cozy lie-ins and middle-of-the-night headphone listening. The casual intimacy of both the songs and their simple but effective arrangements makes the album sound implicitly romantic (Bejar and Vermont are a couple as well as musical partners) even when the songs themselves are anything but.

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