Movie Star Faces
Cargo / Headhunter
By: Eric G.
The Verna Cannon reveals its quiet tension through lightly strummed acoustic guitars, subtle, sturdy percussion and plaintive but, somehow, hopeful vocals. Well-placed bits of violin add tasteful backdrops to the deliberately delicate textures throughout the record. Molly Ledford’s breathy, carefully annunciated vocals stand out from the music, separating The Verna Cannon from the slew of so-called “slowcore” bands that all seem to hail from the Midwest, whose vocalists almost always rely on otherworldly harmonies and whispered affectations. Ledford’s voice is earthy and distinctive with a slight resemblance to Suzanne Vega’s.
The Verna Cannon attacks with passive aggression. The music is not showy by any means; it’s so soporific, at times, it feels like the band doesn’t even want to be heard. The band’s minimalist approach doesn’t shield the well-honed dynamics, however. Each song meanders through lightly trodden terrain with wordy stories and intricate guitar lines. The band is careful never to sound too busy, though. The melodies are not instantly hummable but take several listens to sink in, which is usually the sign of a well-crafted batch of tunes. Ledford has expanded her range somewhat, dabbling a bit more in her upper register and sounding less timid than she did on the band’s debut album.
“In A While” kicks off the record in a characteristically low-key mood but builds gracefully into a beautiful, sweeping chorus, featuring Ledford’s finest vocal performance. Each song is its own little world, where subtle riffs and melancholic melodies vacillate without ever climaxing, but that seems to be intentional because it’s so consistent. Sometimes, Ledford’s journal-keeper style poetry makes you feel nostalgic for things you may or may not have experienced- it’s a strange effect, but one that distinguishes The Verna Cannon from the typical singer/songwriter syndrome. “A Whisper Out” flowers slowly with a lovely yet stark guitar line that builds into a distant strain of feedback. Again, Ledford’s lilt entreats the listener to pay attention to the details.
Movie Star Faces is an accomplished record and should garner this Columbia, South Carolina quartet much attention. The songs are thoughtful and intelligent and obviously the product of a band that’s seen its share of dank rock clubs.