In the four short years since Kelsey Byrne was toiling at the too-perfectly-thankless job of Times Square Applebee’s server with nary a live gig to her (former) name, VÉRITÉ scaled the dizzying heights of blogosphere worship via piercing cover of The 1975’s “Somebody Else.” That lit a fuse that garnered her more than 10 million Spotify spins for her trio of EPs, and still left her time to painstakingly craft a new swath of mostly original tunes for her imminent full-length debut. As vivid testament to the mounting rewards earned through tasteful pluck and tireless effort, it’s damned hard not to root onward VÉRITÉ’s career success. As an album, though, Somewhere In Between isn’t always an easy listen.
While her voice is never less than lovely throughout the baker’s dozen of songs collected here, the artist’s signal technique seems intent upon replicating the moment when nervous exhaustion overcomes deadened anomie, which makes for less-than-wholly-satisfying anthems of empowerment. Describing the circumstances imperiling a broken relationship with clinical dispassion, she begins cycling through a thicket of words—“I don’t want to be here anymore,” say, from album opener “When You’re Gone”—with increasingly furious pitch and momentum, as when crying jags upend a brittle, delicate listlessness. The effect, especially when mirrored through backing glitchscape, nudges hysteria midst big-chorused alt-pop bangers like “Solutions” and casts an edgy melancholia upon idling ballads.
Tastes will differ, to be sure, depending on how one views her chosen idiom. Ploughing the same furrows of understated hooks and medicated discontent as Lana Del Rey (Born To Die co-writer Liam Howe helps produce alongside Peter Thomas and Tim Anderson)—there’s recurrent dangers of teasing only a pouty boredom whenever divining mood from aching subtleties poured over chilled electronica. For better or worse, VÉRITÉ instead limns a workaday headache ever threatening to spiral out of control. There’s a point to documenting those all-too-recognizable tensions, but, had just one tune let loose the gates of unbridled wrath or sorrow or madness, the long-gestating release may well have jolted the album above a recent slate of middling debuts by impeccably-talented, frustratingly-deliberate not-so-newcomers.
Mining dance pop for lyrical depths is a fool’s errand, admittedly, and Somewhere In Between does steer clear of any keening embarrassments while managing to avoid outright banalities. If anything, on track after track of manic quasi-apologies to undeserving paramours, VÉRITÉ too thoroughly embraces a dull-yet-vividly-etched narrative persona. Plaintive inoffensiveness shouldn’t be a winning look for any ascendant disco queen, but holding the spotlight as effortlessly sympathetic heroine remains that neatest trick.
Despite adopting the dopiest trappings of diva-hood—donning, lest we forget, an all-caps, double-accented moniker—there’s yet an everywoman quality to, ahem, VÉRITÉ that blessedly undercuts pretense. Relative to her contemporaries, at least, she hasn’t aggressively marketed her image, never releasing an official music video until this February, but her lissome cover photos haunted each EP track regardless.
And, of course, that backstory doesn’t hurt. Even kids who’ve never set foot in Manhattan will still feel they’ve been to the Times Square Applebee’s and helplessly imagine memories of the lovely waitress whose deceptive fragility barely masked a raging inner torment. We want to remember her. We hope we tipped well.