Hello, Blue Roses’ The Portrait Is Finished and I Have Failed to Capture Your Beauty . . .


Like its title, TPIFAIHFTCYB . . . is the sound of two gifted artists in love, striving to impress one another and consequently trying way too hard. Main singer- songwriter Sydney Vermont is a talented, Vancouver-based visual artist who once crafted a “scrapbook” for an ancillary character in Nabokov’s  Pale Fire; vocalist-arranger Dan Bejar is best known as the poetic indie-folk savant behind Destroyer who also contributes to the New Pornographers and Swan Lake. Together, they craft lilting, light-hearted art-folk that recalls something akin to Joni Mitchell sitting in with ’80s British popsters Prefab Sprout at best, or some Renaissance Faire troubadour’s best attempt at improv at its most mediocre. The latter clearly indicates that true love prevented either artist from saying, “Honey, this is a little too much.”

When they’re on, though, they’re really on. “Shadow Falls” is three minutes of brilliant chorus and sparse guitars, gilded with schmaltzy yet believable puppy-love (e.g., “Please don’t change, dear”). “Coming Through Imposture” showcases Vermont’s gorgeous soprano, and Bejar adds hooks in all the right places—a little tambourine shake here, a little wah-wah there—slowly building to a triumphant outro. In fact, it’s Bejar’s musical savoir faire (and nasal bleat) that separates this album from other canary-voiced rote-folk, such as that generated by interminable also-ran Mia Doi Todd. The most boring songs contain enough click-clacks, flute flourishes, hand claps, and understated guitar noise to hold ADHD attention spans. And since blue roses, according to Victorian floriography, represent attaining the impossible, this duo’s struggle to impress each other could
be the beginning of something great. This, alas, isn’t it.

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