Vera Blue’s debut full-length Perennial is an album of healing, growth and reflection.
Sydney’s Celia Pavey has bravely documented the past 18 months of heartbreak, emotional turmoil, learning and hope, following a break-up in the midst of her whirlwind artistic success.
Here, the personal meets the profession, Pavey drawing on her story to create 12 magnificent tracks that explore her songwriting capability, vocal prowess and signifies the completion of her break away from Celia Pavey – vocalist and The Voice finalist – and emergence into the electronic sphere as Vera Blue.
Following a chronological chapter structure, we open literally in the First Week of her break-up. Reflective, fragile and cautious, simple organ chords and lilting harmonies signify the death knell of her relationship; the chorus yearning for courage and hope.
“My spirit breaks again / I’ll be whole but I don’t know when.”
Drums evoke a warrior’s heartbeat – an instrument she plays herself on stage, driving out the hurt and summoning strength through the action.
Pavey didn’t waste any time stepping into the ring with her new electronic sound with Slumberjack’s Fracture and Illy’s Paper Cuts, bringing elements of electronic production into Perennial without replacing her quintessential vocal as the driving force behind every song.
Give In is my personal highlight; a moment in time revealed through beautifully succinct rhyme structure and trenchant lyricism. Never has the internal battle over sleeping with an ex made me groove so hard. Like, can we all just stop and appreciate the bridge?
“Isn’t hindsight an interesting truth?
Why the fuck was I ever with you?
Seeing clearer than ever before
It’s the last time you walk out my door.”
Growth and healing are the central themes of this album, lyrical refrains and motifs drawing us back to this idea across many of the tracks. Pavey distances herself from the narrative of the break-up through the use of second person narration on Regular Touch, embracing the next phase in her conviction.
We Used To regresses in a moment of vulnerability – a ballad lamenting the loss of a partner and friend, of a routine and comfortable familiarity while removing the rose-tinted lens of hindsight. Long, building notes also leave room for a warble and a crack, Pavey allowing for her raw emotion to come through the recording, foregoing perfection.
Said Goodbye To Your Mother harks back to her acoustic roots, with finger slips on strings and shuddering breaths left in the mix, bringing her story into the room. Starkly contrasting is riff and bass-heavy single Private, powering over the mid-line of the record.
Lady Powers and Magazine are a welcome divergence from the narrative, introducing us to the dance aesthetic that she embraces live. Both songs of empowerment, at times the rhyming scheme and clipped repetition of Lady Powers pushes the boundaries of her style as we know it and take some getting used to.
Contrastingly, fun is injected into the social commentary on body standards and the illusion of perfection with her tongue-in-cheek lyricism: “I wanna stay right here in my fantasy / I wanna live like you in Vanity,” (Magazine). Here, acoustic guitar and folk elements meet electro-pop and synth play.
Language warning on a few of these tracks. Sometimes it works when she needs to hit hard (We Used To) and sometimes it feels forced (Fools). It could be that her piercingly crystal voice seems marred by bad language, but often that’s what makes well-placed profanity so impactful. She’s going through a break-up; sometimes a well placed “fuck it” helps you get on with it.
It’s great to see that while attempting the break away from the TV box many fall into with reality music shows, she hasn’t totally scrapped her roots. She may not be covering Scarborough Fair or Joleine, but there’s trace elements of country and a balance of gentle folk and organic instrumentation among the bangers – an equilibrium achieved with producer Andy Mak and co-producer Adam Anders.
Mended is the perfect summation of the album – an aural depiction of the title which was suggested by her Father, as she told the crowd at her album launch: Perennial is “a term for plants that come back year after year.”
Closing the album with echoes of the opener’s organs and self-reflection on the last 45 minutes, Pavey builds to a triumphant finish that reaches out to the silent other party with an olive branch of both recognition and hope: “It’s been a little while since we have ended / We haven’t mended / It’s getting close.”
Not entirely recovered, not forgotten, but healing slowly, growing towards a strength that will take her into the next chapter.
If you’ve ever lost a love, this one’s for you.
Vera Blue – Perennial on Universal Music.
Released: 21 July, 2017 via Universal Music