It’s been a long time since I’ve done a proper review on this site, so it’s only fitting that my first post back is covering two new songs by Kira Velella – someone whose last release I covered nine long years ago. Velella is back with two new singles released independently of each other, though the songs feel intertwined conceptually.
“Even Then,” the newer of the two songs, follows a familiar but comforting folk-country format. Velella starts the song by complementing a soft guitar rhythm with stronger vocals – the song’s central focus. They’re joined later by drums and steel pedal (courtesy of Kenny Shaw and Ryan Hommel, respectively), but it’s clear that your attention should settle solely on Velella here. Her vocal rhythms feel warmly optimistic, as do her lyrics, which weave a tale of imperfections in a healthy relationship. The song’s verses are a one-sided conversation to a lover, founded on the repetition of the phrase “Even when” – i.e. “Even when I start the fight / Even when I know you’re right / Even when I’m sorry comes too slow / Even then I know you won’t go.” Think of it as a total flip of Big Thief’s miserable (but wonderful) song “Not.” The song plays like a written letter left as a secret to be found later, a secret we’re privy to as listeners.
“You Light Me Up” – released back in October despite taking place on the Fourth of July – follows a related musical path as “Even Then.” “Light” is a tender folk song, missing the slight country influence of “Even” but similar otherwise. Everything feels a little more balanced on “Light,” with Velella’s vocals falling more into the mix and a soothing drum rhythm taking more prominence. Guitar remains a focus, but there’s a faint piano line hidden behind everything else that adds some nice ambiance. The song is also an ode to an imperfect but cherished relationship, with a warm nostalgia, but more hints of vulnerability. The relationship in this song still sounds lovely, but something about it feels a little less concrete than in “Even Then.” Everything detailed in the song is in the past, looking back on good times, as opposed to a continuous presence. In both of these songs, Velella nails the complicated human mistakes and roughness of relationships that are often too sanitized or dumbed down by other artists.
The two songs work as both parts of a whole and as opposites of each other. Velella takes center stage on “Even,” a song that takes place in a universe of only two people – her and the person she’s singing to. On “Light,” there’s an almost immediate reference to other people in the neighborhood, and Velella herself sounds further in the mix, in the crowd of instruments. “Even Then” feels like a evening drive on a nice summer night in the open, where “You Light Me Up” feels more like the Independence Day it describes – a little crowded and warm, but still lovely and fun. Both songs have some cracked nostalgia, but are ultimately warm and rewarding folk odes to those we love nearly unconditionally. As we approach the doldrums of the relentless summer heat in yet another collectively terrible year, we can use some solace in songs like these.
Both tracks can be found on Velella’s bandcamp page.