Very Secretary - Standing in the Shade
Mud Records



For anyone who has ever read any of my other reviews, I'm sure you know I
typically preface a review by talking about how I saw this band x years
ago when they were "practically a different band." Well, what do ya know?
I'm starting this one out like that too!

Two years ago I went to see a band called Regulator Watts play at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago. I knew who all the band on the bill were so when I saw Roy Ewing. formerly of Braid, setting up his drums on stage I was a bit baffled. I had been hearing about this new band he was in, Very Secretary, but didn't know they were on the bill. Luckily for me, they had come to play a surprise show which, I believe, turned out to be their first show or close to it. They absolutely blew my friends and me away. One of them, in a fairly well established band at the time, leaned over to me and whispered, "I want to start a band like this now." That about said it all.
I saw them a few more times that fall and eagerly anticicpated the full-length record they were to realease on Mud Records. In the meantime I continued to talk this band up to everyone I met. The CD finally did come out...to disappointed ears on my part. Some of the songs were great, but some were near unlistenable for me. There were spots on the album where the vocals absolutely crushed the mood for me. Singer Dave Johnson just seemed to be reaching for notes he couldn't hit, and in effect, dragged down a few songs. Don't get me wrong, I still like the CD; I haven't sold it or anything. I guess I was just expecting more. Such is always the case, huh? I guess I also felt kinda bad when some of my friends weren't quite as high on them as I had told them they would be. Oh well, that's how it goes.
So, Very Secretary laid kinda low for a while playing some scattered shows in the last yaer. I caught a couple and had fun, but never shook the feeling of disappointment. When I started hearing mumblings of a new album I decided right off the bat that I wasn't going to get my hopes up and would listen to it without any pretenses. Being nearly impossible to do, all I can say is that Very Secretary has released the album I wished they released a year and a half ago. Not that they sound like they did a year and a half ago, just in terms of song quality.
The drastic metamorphosis this band has gone through since it's first album is quite apparent even into the first forty-five seconds of the album. Most notable is the addition of violinist Rachel Dietkus. Most welcome is the change in Dave Johnson's vocal delivery. He seems to have adopted a style somewhere in between Mark from the Red House Painters and Elliott Smith. Unlike Mark and the first Very Secretary album, he seems happy placing his vocals in the background of the mix giving way to the, lush instrumentation found within. Now the focus moves away from his voice which isn't as strong as an Elliott Smith, to the smooth, jazzy drumming of Roy Ewing and the guitar/vioin interplay. That's what this band is all about, and that's why this album shines. With the clean, finger-picked guitar, floating violin, and the whispered/sung vocals, this album drifts by effortlessly. Their sound is akin to the aforementioned Red House Painters but nowhere near copycat status. These are full songs, each rich and palpable, waiting to enrapture. What a satisfying record this is; I cannot think of a complaint. If you are into soft, moody, lush indie rock/slow-pop stuff pick this up without haste. This time I'm certain you won't be let down.
...david smith...

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