Review Summary: Hope I don't go till I felt everything.
The Veils came up in the One Tree Hill
-era, a time for fashionable indie, with the prerequisite “the” and the handsome, steely-eyed frontman, but their music possessed a far darker, more cracked heart than most of their one-and-done contemporaries. Given the band’s upheaval over the years, the credit for maintaining this captivatingly cinematic ethos has to go to Finn Andrews, he of the Jeff Buckley affectations and Nick Cave influences and incisive songwriting chops to match. 2006’s Nux Vomica
remains the overlooked classic of the past decade, a roiling storm of emotional baggage and baroque pop songwriting that perfectly married Andrews’ fire-and-brimstone vocal approach with an expansive palette of post-punk and widescreen indie rock. The subsequent shrug of indifference from the mainstream music press and the band’s resulting attempts to stay relevant have occasionally dulled Andrews’ serrated edges, the combustibility that has made him one of the great frontmen in indie, and in turn 2009’s Sun Gangs
merely sounded like an attempt at recapturing lightning in a bottle. Lucky for fans of the band, then, that Time Stays, We Go
attempts no such facsimile. Recorded in Los Angeles, a far cry from the band’s native New Zealand and current base of London, their fourth record prefers to languish in its own unique headspace, unfurling a dusty, torn portrait of desert living and harsh climes, Andrews finally sounding relaxed and in control in an audioscape that is warm and bloody and very, very Veils.
Time Stays, We Go
succeeds when it embraces the happy medium between Andrews’ bruised vocals and the record’s rollicking, surprisingly lush instrumentation. Andrews is more restrained here than he has been in years; where earlier records would find Andrews often oscillating between a measured hum and a tortured scream within the same word, here he more at ease in his role as storyteller, able to achieve that sort of mystic vibe without telegraphing his intentions. When he does allow himself to run off the rails, as on “Dancing With The Tornado,” he sounds curiously out of sorts, a man playing a part he is no longer fully invested in. As a result, the song sounds like a lesser imitation of past classics, a problem that comes up too in the overly measured tones and playacting theatrics of the lethargic “Candy Apple Red” or the plodding, redundant “Sign Of Your Love.” Contrast those parts of Time Stays, We Go
that get lost in overcast atmosphere or rehashed songwriting with those that combine the best of the Veils’ masterful command of tension and release and Andrews’ considerable charisma. Opener “Through the Deep, Dark Wood” is downright incendiary, a convulsive, engaging bit of loss that segues nicely into the appropriately capacious “Train With No Name.” That latter is a fine example of just what Time Stays, We Go
does so well; namely, putting the focus behind Andrews’ compelling voice and his muscular guitar work. It’s a careful drawing, a windswept picture that calls to mind empty roads and emptier towns.
Things coalesce nicely in the latter half where the Veils’ strengths – pop melodies dirtied with a hint of gothic romanticism, ballads dressed in black, Andrews’ singing equal parts apocalyptic and country fair – combine seamlessly into the band’s best sequence since Nux Vomica
. No band does simultaneously jaunty and dark as well as the Veils, as “Turn From The Rain” and the ornate, tragic “Another Night On Earth” prove, and while “Birds” might be dramatic and overwrought, it’s hard not to get caught up in its silly, esoteric little bit of fancy. And “Out From The Valley & Into The Stars” – everything the Veils have made their own, creeping melancholy dressed up into a crescendo of a catharsis, tinges of the old world and the new and blessedly, refreshingly honest. It’s hard to tell whether the Veils will ever match the heights they reached in their mid-00s heyday, but with Time Stays, We Go
, that question is pretty much a moot point. This record is brooding and shadows, joy and smirks, a blood-red dusk on a quiet desert evening; all emotion and sparkling instrumentation, confident of where it wants to go and even surer on how to get there. The Veils remain who they are, and that means they stay whatever Finn Andrews, all vinegar and unbridled creativity and that meteor of a personality, wishes them to be. All things considered, this isn’t such a bad place to be.