A richly rewarding listening experience, Ideal Home Noise encourages us to sit with discomfort

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A richly rewarding listening experience, Ideal Home Noise encourages us to sit with discomfort

Ideal Home Noise

“I’m an imposter” – so commences Ideal Home Noise, before Vera Ellen later elaborates, “It isn’t easy being like this.”

Even if Vera’s brilliant second solo album is just playing in the background, startling lyrical phrases jump out to demand our full attention and lure us into this vivid collection of vignettes (eg. “I wanted to jump at Broadway Junction/ Feel the tracks against my back” – like watching through fingers, we feel a harrowing sense of dread as this story unfurls). 

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As well as a solo artist, this award-winning Wellington musician is also lead singer of the LA group Girl Friday and her previous Kiwi bands include Gaol Bait and Maple Syrup. She stumbled across the phrase Ideal Home Noise in a book, while house-sitting a Malibu property formerly occupied by The Beach Boys. 

“I’m my own homewrecker,” Vera has explained of Homewrecker, her song about self-sabotage. And how’s this for a closing line? “I would kiss you if I knew how” – damn, she really knows how to pique listeners’ interest through intriguing, thought-provoking lyricism, hey? 

Jaunty drumming and jangly riffs – which glisten like tears of joy – are often at odds with Vera’s lyrics, which navigate complex, conflicting thoughts and emotions. Her self-deprecating humour also adds much-needed levity.

“Isn’t it a drag to be free/ To be free and young” – Smell Of An Oily Rag (as in “Running off the…”), with its sheeny, conversational guitar lines, recounts nostalgic, wholesome childhood memories until a sing-songy refrain delivers mood whiplash: “I was just a kid and the world was kinda big and I’m angry what you didn’t do/ I was just a child and the world was kinda wild and you’re lucky what I didn’t do.” The piano-led Carpenter gets sticky as well: “If you saw how close I was you would pick up the phone…” – welfare check, please? 

Vera has described Lenny Says as “a track for us whining broke losers with unattainable dreams; having a laugh and a moan at the same time”, which is brilliantly accentuated when two voices sing concurrently: “I’m 23 and I’m a bloody loser/ A blood-sucking, dim-witted drug abuser…” Including recorded snippets of a child’s chit-chat adds resonance to Vera’s intermittent reflections on inherited traits as well (see: “I think he might be like my sister”, “I’m just like my father”).

A richly rewarding listening experience, Ideal Home Noise encourages us to sit with discomfort. This record should put Vera on the map. 

Ideal Home Noise is out today, March 31, via the label Flying Nun. Check it out by heading here