Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls
I’m worried about Slumberland Records. Until now this tastemaking label has done everything the right way. When the shoegaze/trance-pop sound (think Stereolab, Velocity Girl, Lilys) that spurred the label’s ascent receded from the spotlight, the imprint wisely went into a near-cryogenic freeze rather than halfheartedly chase new fads. Now that its chosen sound has returned to favor, Slumberland is back with a vengeance – bankrolling a “bet the ranch” production gambit for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s sophomore bow, and releasing a deluge of titles that would put larger operations to shame, excesses that have felled once-proud indies in the past (Flydaddy, Kindercore). Granted I’m not privy to their business model, and the need to fund physical inventory is less a burden today than in days gone by, but Slumberland at minimum risks diluting the value of its Good Housekeeping seal.
Amazingly, however, none of the above has yet to affect Slumberland’s quality control. The latest case in point is Veronica Falls, a UK quartet that inverts the usual C86 template. The manic guitars remain, but take a backseat to Roxanne Clifford’s assured and sturdy vocals. Her voice meshes perfectly with that of James Hoare, whose deeper tones add a needed gravity to standouts like opener “Love in a Graveyard,” which immediately announces Veronica’s fondness for classic Celtic folk – an influence the band lays bare on the chorale that closes “Misery.” Clifford’s polished pipes aren’t necessarily an improvement over the naïve enthusiasm that defines the genre, but they’re certainly a welcome change of pace. Veronica Falls takes a turn toward the pedestrian on lighter two-minute pop fare like “Wedding Day,” but quickly recoups for a headcharge of a finale in “Come On Over.” Veronica Falls doesn’t manage to nudge local wonders Gold-Bears from the pedestal for best Slumberland release of 2011, but they do place a strong second.