Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Veronica Falls, a band that released its final album in 2013, is probably among the most contemporary music I listen to. There are a lot of reasons for this, but chief among them is the paradox that as music has become more available, it has become increasingly difficult to find music I like. Certainly, part of it is simply that I lack the energy and time these days to explore; I don’t have the freedom I did in my college years to sit around and do nothing but listen to an album. Something about streaming music also plays a role – the stuff I hear online without having a physical copy rarely registers with me, even when I like it. Even when I shift strategies and try to rely on record labels (that Veronica Falls was on Slumberland certainly helped convince me to give them a listen), I fail to follow through. How many Slumberland emails have I read and then ignored?

What I Think of This Album

Veronica Falls is proudly retro, which I suppose helps explain my love for them. There is a very late ‘80s/early ‘90s sound at work here. The band takes the basic formula of Black Tambourine and adds some of the darkness of the Chills’ “Pink Frost,” and a hint of shoegaze texture, too. The doomed outlook is, of course, timeless already. That said, I don’t find this to be derivative or artificial. It’s very much of a piece with the approach of the first Pains of Being Pure at Heart album (another Slumberland band) in that it gives a loving and respectful nod to the past but undeniably exists in the present.

The clean lead vocals of guitarist Roxanne Clifford are a consistent highlight, as are the backing harmonies (by Clifford, guitarist James Hoare, and drummer Patrick Doyle); the sometimes jangly and sometimes spindly guitar work of Clifford and Hoare should win you over; and the melodies are absolutely wonderful. Beyond that, there is a dark mystique that blankets the entire album (much like the reverb that does the same), from the suicidal “Beachy Head” to the inappropriately sunny “Misery” to the frenetic “Found Love In a Graveyard.”

The pure pop of “Misery” is matched only by the Tommy James-referencing “Come On Over” (which starts out like a Velvet Underground song). The spooky title track will stick in your brain until you are mercifully released from this existence. Throughout, there is a perverse delight in how Clifford prettily – and often cheerily – delivers lines like “Misery / Taking over me ” or “I’ve got a bad feeling / A bad bad feeling / And it’s not going away” (“Bad Feeling”) or “I’m broken-hearted / Dearly departed” (“Found Love In a Graveyard”). The bass line of invitation-to-adultery “Stephen” sounds like it came from the Pixies’ “Debaser” (and later homage “A Good Idea” by Sugar).

It’s unclear to me where this band originated – perhaps Scotland but also perhaps London, or some mix of the two. I am compelled to note that this is the second example in my collection of a title track also being the band name (the other is ”Book of Love” on Book of Love by Book of Love).

The Best Thing About This Album

Everything on here is great, so it feels diminishing to say that the way Clifford and the others stack the melody and harmonies on “I’ve got a bad feeling / A bad bad feeling / And it’s not going away” is my favorite thing.

Release Date

September, 2011

The Cover Art

A+. The font, the spacing, the sepia-ish tone, the branches, the old structure.

Book of Love – Book of Love

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

This is an album I bought twice – the first time in high school and then I reacquired it many years later. I probably sold it when I got to college in some ill-considered crisis of masculinity, feeling embarrassed for liking something so light and dance-oriented, and let’s be honest, gay-coded. Well, that was foolish and immature, and ultimately the aspect of this that I am actually embarrassed about. Anyway, I learned my lesson and Book of Love shall stay (and other lessons, too, of course, but this is about the music not my personal growth). This was a band of art students and club denizens, based in NY but coming out of Connecticut and Philadelphia. Ted Ottoviano and Susan Ottoviano went to high school together but are not related; they ultimately hooked up with Jade Lee and Lauren Roselli and became Book of Love. They toured with Depeche Mode in the mid-’80’s and had several songs on the US dance charts, including in 2001 with a re-release of a remix of “Boy” from this album; the Dead Milkmen cruelly mocked them in a song. Also, Lauren Roselli had a small role in The Silence of the Lambs, and appeared in Philadelphia and the remade The Manchurian Candidate.

What I Think of This Album

Unabashedly romantic, without sacrificing worldliness or overlooking seduction, this is an exemplary collection of synthesizer-driven pop/dance songs that New Order would have eagerly burned down a thousand Haciendas to have written.

“Modigliani (Lost In Your Eyes)” opens with keyboards mimicking an angelic chorus giving way to a drum beat, and what better harbinger of everything that follows could there be? This sweet and utterly swoonworthy tune is built on Jade Lee’s beats, synthesized choral sounds, Ted Ottoviano’s obsession with tubular bells, and Lauren Roselli’s deadpan but tender vocals. The spoken word Italian coda is there only to drive home that this is an album about love, motherfucker. The band drags girl-group lyrics onto the dancefloor in the warmly uplifting “You Make Me Feel So Good;” the melodica is a nice touch. The band shifts gears on the sinister, lean, and slinky “Still Angry,” with Lee’s percussion once again being a standout element; there is an early Orchestral Maneuvers In the Dark element to the falling/rising keyboard riff.

A semi-ballad arrives in the blue “White Lies,” which Roselli sells with just the right amount of pathos, and the synthesized horns at end just edge out Ted Ottoviano’s tubular bells for the best thing about it. “Lost Souls” sounds a lot like Low-Life era New Order, with ominous chords, rapid-trigger beats, and stuttering synthesizer sounds. Fast-paced instrumental “Late Show” continues the New Order idolatry, but overstays its welcome by a couple of minutes. “I Touch Roses” is another standout, beginning with speaker-hopping blasts of noise that almost sound like a guitar; the rhythm is undeniable, Roselli sounds confident and sexy as hell, and the arrangement is meticulously layered. “Yellow Sky” is yet another shift in mood, proving beyond a doubt that dance music can have heart and depth and complexity.

“Boy” is a beatriffic tale of a girl in love with a gay boy, who drowns her sadness in so many tubular bells, but finishes off with a sly reveal and the sexiest “uh huh”s this side of Manhattan.There is a gentle elegance to the multitracked vocals of “Happy Day,” again with some fine percussion. The cover of “Die Matrosen” (originally by Swiss feminist avant-punk band LiLiPUT (who were also known as Kleenex)) is fantastic, and more than amply establishes Book of Love’s credentials; I bet the Dead Milkmen didn’t have a fucking clue about LiLiPUT. Finally, “Book of Love” is the second instance in my collection of where the song is on the album of the same name by the band of the same name; Veronica Falls pulled the same trick in 2011). Beyond this novelty, the song is simply another great track on a great album.

The original CD adds some remixes, if you want to have a dance party in your living room.

The Best Thing About This Album

You could select almost any track but I choose “Modigliani (Lost In Your Eyes).” I like to swoon.

Release Date

April, 1986

The Cover Art

I love the drawings and the quasi Greco-Roman (?) font, as well as the offset shadow of the band name. The portraits are fine, as those things go. This image is probably from the reissue, as my original copy has a significantly lighter grey tone to the drawings, and the photographs are not so dark either.

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