I find that when I am in love, I do things that I probably wouldn’t normally do. I have conversations I never thought I’d have. I see movies I really have no desire to see. But most of all, I end up listening to music that falls way outside my realm of interest. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It was through former girlfriends that I ended up discovering Liz Phair, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, P.J. Harvey and a host of others. But while I’ve been lucky in these discoveries, I’ve been unlucky in love. Does the same hold true for making music? Rock and roll has had its share of fantastic couples, of which there are far too numerous to mention. But we can talk about the latest. Dan Bejar, of Destroyer, the New Pornographers and Swan Lake, has teamed up with his `romantically entwined’ other half, Sydney Vermont to create something that most people would never expect from Bejar.
Hello, Blue Roses is the name of this new duo, taken from a line in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, in which Laura explains to Jim that she has pluerosis, which he then misinterprets as `blue roses.’ With Bejar’s knack for allusion, you can see why these two got together. The Portrait is Finished has many facets, and songs can even be grouped accordingly. The album starts with the title track, which vacillates between hippie-folk of the Vashti Bunyan variety and Bejar’s electric guitar flourishes and backup vocals that recall the shimmery pop of the NP’s. “Scarecrow” is pure Joni Mitchell beauty, as if the song were recorded thirty years ago in Laurel Canyon instead of Vancouver. “Shadow Falls” begins an altogether different grouping of songs, an Act II if you will. Bejar’s voice becomes much more prominent than in the first trilogy of tunes, yet it doesn’t detract at all from Vermont’s gorgeous pipes. The song is far less folky, and far more synth-driven groovetastic, like a Bowie duet in space. As such, it’s one of the true standout tracks, sure to get a lot of airplay.
“Golden Fruit” toes the line between the folkie / renaissance type of stuff as found earlier in the record, and the epic and bittersweet falsettos of Kate Bush. The same holds true for “Sunny Skies,” a piano based track that truly suits Vermont’s lovely vocals. It’s also the first time that Bejar steps out from behind his variously arranged instruments to provide a few vocals, and these two really sound great together. “Mediterranean Snow” is another standout, with Bejar’s guitar, Vermont’s flute, and again the two intertwined voices, weaving in and out like lovers running through a dense forest. A bonus treat is tacked on to the end of the song, which finds Vermont still playing the fruit while Bejar adds a clamorous electric guitar. “Sickly Star” finds Vermont once again sounding like a dead ringer for early Joni Mitchell, though with the music finding hints of Latin flavors.
If you’re one of those looking for the next great Bejar project, this is it, but it’s not at all what you were expecting. So, be warned, if you’re not ready to hear a more laid back, lucky in love, digging the folk scene Bejar, then you’d best wait for the next Destroyer album in March. But just as, once you’re in a relationship, you might listen to something you’d never give a second thought to before; you should open up your vistas for Hello, Blue Roses. Sydney Vermont will never be considered a visual artist anymore thanks to the strength of her voice on this album. In fact, though Bejar comes into this project with the heftier résumé, it will be Vermont that comes out the other side with the spoils, and with great reason. She proves herself not only a captivating singer, but also a gifted songwriter. Not to sound like their respective mothers, but I can’t wait to hear what their kids’ band sounds like.
Joni Mitchell- Blue
Kate Bush- The Kick Inside
Meg Baird- Dear Companion