I will confess that I had not heard of Static in Verona before undertaking this review, but I was lured in by the one-man indie-power-pop approach, because anyone who is willing to take on so much work by themselves (and it is a lot of work) deserves to be heard. I shall continue this review in the vein that you too have not previously heard of him (if you have, feel free to pull a smug Zane Lowe style grin).
Static in Verona is the pseudonym of Rob Merz from Chicago, Illinois. He simplifies his sound as indie pop (albeit with some experimental features) although I checked out some tracks from his first album and there are some tweedy-folk-esque-REM-esque songs, which I really liked. However, that was many moons ago back in 2008 (a simpler time), this new album has seen the songwriting and production progress tremendously (there’s an album in between which I am overlooking called ‘Everything You Knew Before You Knew Everything’ which is an excellent title).
As previously alluded to, Rob is a one-man show, from writing to performing to recording and mixing, but when you hear these tracks you wouldn’t know it. In fact if I hadn’t known this beforehand, I have no doubt that I would believe Static in Verona to be a full band. This, in a round about way, is part of the charm for me. If this were a band, as it sounds, I wouldn’t be too fussed, but as it’s one guy creating this big, shiny, punchy, luscious sound, I am very interested.
The first few listens of the album didn’t have much of an impact, it wasn’t drawing me in, punching me with dynamics or twisting the knife with clever heart-felt lyrics. Nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t grabbing by the balls like some albums do. I persevered and blamed myself for being distracted. I emailed Rob to ask for a copy of the lyrics and he was kind enough to oblige very promptly (nice guy).
Then it clicked.
Somehow, having the lyrics in front of me helped me to focus on the tracks; the melodic shapes, the harmonies, the structure etc… and I found myself becoming much more attached to this album.
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There are great driving drum grooves that boom through the tracks, various distorted guitars hammering away on a single note but forming a choir between them, layers of falsetto vocals which swoop into the choruses. At first, I just heard typical indie rock sounds but this time I could hear Super Furry Animals, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Elbow and much more hidden in the creases. He layers up his vocals like a Beach Boys harmony with a driving Feeder style beat hammering the snare while the guitars indulge in some shoe-gazing riffs.
My only criticisms would be that the lyrics are rather minimalist, favouring to repeat the verses instead of writing new ones and although they are abstract lyrics, that don’t objectively tell a story, I would like to have heard more detail unfolding in latter verses. My other comment would be that overall I think the production needed a little more space to breathe, it’s full on sound throughout is a bit suffocating, whereas another producer may have carved some more space for the dynamics (as well as pushing the vocals up front a little bit more). That being said, Rob has taken all of this on himself, and what he has accomplished is outstanding.
As this is being released as a ‘name your price’ release through the usual channels (iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify etc…) I would definitely recommend this album. I strongly suspect that I will grow to love this album even more by the time it is released on 28th August.
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