The moment I opened my copy of Things You Used to Say by Very Truly Yours, I was taken back to childhood days at Grandma’s. The dusty rose and ivory color scheme of the CD case and disc (not to mention the floral pattern behind the tray) made me nostalgic for those days of rummaging through Grandma’s closet, dousing my skin in her Chanel No. 5 and wrapping myself in strings of pearls that hung from the vanity dresser. I can almost feel that rust-colored shag carpet between my toes. If I never even listened to the album, I’d still love it just for that.
Based out of Chicago, the indie-pop group recorded its debut LP on Portland, Oregon’s Skywriting Records. Kristine Capua leads on vocal and songwriting duties, backed up by keyboardist Katie Watkins, guitarist Lisle Mitnik, bassist Dan Hyatt and drummer Andy Rogers. Reaching all the way back to early girl groups like the Crystals and the Ronettes, to ’90s lady-fronted pop ensembles the Cardigans and Sixpence None the Richer, it’s easy to detect familiarity in the music of Very Truly Yours. The vintage pop style is heard often these days in songs by Camera Obscura, She & Him and Cults.
If any two words from the above paragraph registered with you, please let them be Camera Obscura, because there are few finer comparisons ever made. Capua does a magnificent impression of Tracyanne Campbell and at times I really feel like I’m listening to “My Maudlin Career.” That sort of grey-day doo-wop saturates “Things You Used to Say,” a darling collection of melancholy melodies rife with love-centric properties.
Very Truly Yours is best when they’re conjuring tight tunes with a solid sound, the kind you can grasp onto as opposed to those that drift wispily by (“Homesick,” “Dear”). The title track finds firm ground with Watkins’ keyboards, and “Puddles” has strength in its guitar parts. Their use of glockenspiel on the album is wholly endearing as a key element. In one of many feats of adorableness, Capua sings “Every heart I know has a different place to go” over the twinkly instrument for “Love is Hard.”
Sometimes the vocals are too elusive. You know what Capua conveys is worth hearing, but several of the band’s songs suffer from echo-chamber syndrome, which happens all too commonly in indie-pop music. It blurs the words’ edges, making them hard to hear, and Very Truly Yours is a little too fond of that quality. I’d like to hear these songs in a sharper setting, where the vocals are as present as everything else in the music. Tunes such as “Funeral” and “To See You Here” could benefit from a little clarity, with potential to be some of the album’s best.