On their 2012 full-length debut, When Dusk Falls, Burlington alt-rockers Vedora displayed versatility and curiosity. The requisite guitar jangle characteristic of the genre was offset by stylistic diversions into reggae, Latin rock, rockabilly and piano balladry. And it was all shrouded in a dusky haze courtesy of the moody songwriting of co-front persons — and then-romantic couple — Matthew Hastings and Caroline O'Connor. Hastings and O'Connor have since decoupled, and the band is no more. But as one last goodbye they recorded an EP, the recently released II — so titled as a second record, obviously, but perhaps also as a subtle nod to Hastings and O'Connor. And it's as beautifully bittersweet as you'd expect.
Vedora's debut burst with promise, though it was slightly uneven in parts. The culprit was the band's shape-shifting nature. While most of their sonic experiments worked, some didn't — which is often the way with experimentation. Literally and figuratively, the six-song II is a leaner, stronger work. This time around, Vedora rein in some of their wider explorations and dig more deeply and carefully into the nuances within individual pieces.
On opener "Floating," Hastings casts a dreamy haze, the sinister edge of his fuzzy guitar tempered by chimes that pop like wayward balloons adrift too high. Similarly, the gruff rasp of his voice is softened by O'Connor's sweet, airy tone. Signal Kitchen engineer Dave DeCristo set the latter back just enough in the mix to make them seem more like apparitions than backing vocals.
Throughout the record, a spooky, psychedelic fog recalls beloved Burlington expats the Cush. Which makes sense, given O'Connor's tenure in that band — even her vocals are sometimes reminiscent of the Cush's Gabrielle Douglas. Nowhere is the comparison more appropriate than on "Emptiness." O'Connor's bass guitar slithers amid murky, atmospheric guitar, organ and percussion. As the song builds tension, her voice remains eerily restrained — still floating, but as if tethered to the earth. That is, until the final stanza, when, following a multi-harmony refrain of "Let it go," she's cut loose in wordless, prettily fluttering lines.
David Foster Wallace wrote, "Every love story is a ghost story." II is like a musical embodiment of that phrase — one of DFW's favorites. The record is haunting, even in more muscular moments, as on the bruising "Sober." But it's most evident on the elegiac closer "The Feeling," on which Hastings and O'Connor's voices swirl together and drift apart, both fighting for space and finding close harmony together, before finally fading away.
On II, their final record together, Hastings and O'Connor excavated the best aspects of When Dusk Falls and illuminated them with spectral light, creating expansive suites that twist and turn, weep and shout and, like ghosts and hearts, appear and vanish. The result is a stirring, all-too-brief record that makes the mind wander to the places Vedora might have gone.