'vast low cities' press


SF Bay Guardian

Joining the list of bands proving that girls can rock as hard (if not harder) than boys are Vervein, an indie rock quartet whose sound is simultaneously dreamy and hard-edged (think Azure Ray meets the Breeders). On their 2003 debut, Vast Low Cities (Angrymoose), the San Francisco band communicate a dark, confident sexiness. The resonating guitars and unabashed, smoky vocals are delicate yet brazen, like a beautiful, exotic flower that also happens to be carnivorous. Set to release a follow-up album this fall, Vervein are poised to give new meaning to (dare we say it?) girl power. --Elisa Jacobs


From the time they open their lips on the one-minute opener to their self-released debut, 'One Whole Year,' it's apparent that this San Francisco quartet is intent on treating us to gorgeously layered, hushed vocals a la This Mortal Coil's Rutkowski sisters or His Name is Alive's Livonia, bouncy melodies as unforgettable as The Go-Go's, and a mesmerizing pop sensibility we haven't heard since femme Brit poppers like Lush, The Primitives, and The Heart Throbs... The best 'vocal' album of the year, Vast Low Cities is also stacked to the rafters with lushly romantic pop songs that'll have this listener's ears glued to the speakers, hotly anticipating their follow-up. --Jeff Penczak

East Bay Express Article

Chick Factor: SF indie-pop quartet Vervein prospers
despite chump-ass rock crit chauvinism.

Lost At Sea

More often than not I catch myself daydreaming about movies. Not of movies that have already been made, but movies I'm writing in my head. An album like Vast Low Cities is the perfect soundtrack to one of these mind-films of mine. The feeling of this indie pop album is very comfortable, easily comparable to Death Cab for Cutie mixed with Kristin Hersch. Songs like 'Cautious' and 'Fields Of Green' give an intimate look into the world of this band. Somber and beautiful, these songs bring out a Sunday afternoon feeling...'My Disposition' has a much more cheerful pop sound which can help to illustrate a victory of any magnitude in the score to the movie in my mind. Another one of my favorite songs on the album is 'Arches of Georgia'. Upbeat and a bit haunting, this song comes right at the midway point of the album and gives off the feeling of accomplishment. I think this song will play as the credits scroll by. It's pretty amazing that this one album can work as the score to a movie in my mind. Vervein is the sort of band that provides creative inspiration to those looking for some of their own... --Bob Ladewig

KSCU 103.3FM

Occasionally an album has a mesmerizing quality that just pulls you in, safe and slowly at first, until all of sudden you rub your blurry eyes and realize you've been listening to the disc on repeat for a week. For me, this was just such a one. Combining guitar, bass, and drums with cello and organ, the four ladies of Vervein make beautiful, sometimes soft, sometimes swirling music that crawls inside and stays. At times crisp and clear, and at others dreamy and distant, the vocals meld well to indie rock brimming over with dark and unsettlingly pretty melodies, together producing an eerily attractive sound of melancholic, barely masked desperation. Distortion-fueled crashes stem from somber cello and chiming guitar, hopeful phrases emerge from haunting musical dirges. If it's possible to be powerfully beautiful and elegantly mournful all at once, Vervein just may have figured it out. --Remy Spelunk

Bees Knees

Vervein sit atop this wall, one side there is the Breeders, on the other side there is Mazzy Star, they don't cross over to one side more than the other, but they take the best from both. The clean vocals of Mazzy Star, the tight rhythm of the Breeders, and a mood not heard since the first American Analog Set full length. Some A&R reps from major labels must be missing this band somehow. --Mike Turner

Splendid E-zine

Vervein is sort of a female supergroup; its four members have done time in some great (though mostly overlooked) indie bands, such as Ee and Shackleton. They play a warm, fuzzy, atmospheric style of rock, using a dual guitar, bass and drums line-up, occasionally augmented with cello and organ. Vervein aren't afraid to experiment with song structures, and avoid conventional verse/chorus-based songs. They often make use of atmospheric midsections to add greater dynamic color to their music. Comparisons to Kim Deal and the Breeders would not be out of line, but the Sonora Pine and Rachel’s are probably more akin to this style of moody, haunting 'rock.' Even more so than those bands, Vervein have done an inspired job of sequencing the disc. There are no lulls, no points where one song blurs into the next - in fact, there really isn't a weak track in the bunch. --Garrett Splain

Delusions of Adequacy

...Hell, maybe I just like them because they have a song called “Arches of Georgia,” I don’t know. Most likely, however, my appreciation is due to the combination of Vervein’s pleasing melodies and singer Jess Congdon’s modest yet powerful voice. That voice is well tailored to Vervein’s pretty pop music, enveloping the listener like a warm net hammock on a cool September evening... --Garrett

South of Mainstream

Imagine mixing the alterna-rock intensity of Liz Phair or Louise from Veruca Salt with the folksy guitar stylings of Kristin Hersh. Then throw in some Archers of Loaf style ambience. Jessica Congdon's voice is a marvel. She's heard the best of other great female vocalists and manages to make her own voice take on the same of their same distinct traits. Listen to "Honestly" and you hear the lo-fi register of Liz Phair. Listen carefully and you might hear some of the sweetness of the Innocence Mission. "Disposition" brings to mind Kim Deal's vocals, but somehow softer, less in your face. This is a CD you should definitely add to your collection if you like any of the following artists: Liz Phair, The Breeders, Belly, Throwing Muses, Kristin Hersh, Cat Power...the list is too long. If you like intelligent music created by bands made up largely or solely of women, this is a disc you should purchase. --CompGeekGirl

SF Weekly

Listening to the first few tracks off of Vast Low Cities, the debut release from San Francisco quartet Vervein, it might be easy to characterize the record as a collection of dainty downtempo pop songs, enhanced by layers of ethereal female vocals that lull a listener into a pleasant, meditative state. But to focus on nothing more than this halcyon element would be a mistake. While Vervein's music -- driven by the interplay between the guitars of Jessica Congdon and Esther Reyes and backed by Rachel Fuller's melodic bass lines and Allison Duke's solid drumming -- is lush and wistful, recalling slowcore bands like Rex and Red House Painters, the band adds complex, emotional lyrics to its dreamy landscapes of sound, making for an intelligent record that dives deep below its deceptively serene surface. Congdon's lyrics are supported by music that makes ample use of the crescendo, as many of the songs build from a sparse beginning to an electrically charged finale. The occasional infusion of Reyes' haunting cello adds an elegant drama to the mix. And just when it seems Vervein overuses minor keys, a bright song like "Disposition" or the infectiously hooky "Stray Dogs" interrupts the moody reverie. Overall, the material on Vast Low Cities inspires a response similar to what its lyrics evoke: It's easy to dream of beautiful things while we listen, but those hopes are dashed when the record, like all things, comes to an end. --Liz Montalbano


Within the first 30 seconds their debut album Vast Low Cities, Vervein sets a lush, warm tone which they skillfully maintain and built upon for the remaining 40 or so minutes. Guitar-rich with warm female vocals pleasantly up front in the mix, Vast Low Cities evokes Kim Deal's best "quiet" work in and out of the Breeders. As the album glides on, the fine indie pop of the American Analog Set, Mazzy Star, and San Francisco's own For Stars comes to mind. "Unarmed" is a drumless, semi-waltz driven by soft, overdubbed vocals and cello. On "Mockingbird" and "My Disposition", Vervein chugs through the tried and true soft/loud dynamic legally required of all indie rock bands since the dawn of the Pixie's "Doolittle" without indulging in the usual harshness of aggressively mixed distortion pedals. "Arches of Georgia" largely sidesteps clean guitar arpeggios if favor of the harder aspects of the band's sound only sparingly revealed on the album. My favorite track on the record, "Stray Dogs", sees the band facing skyward in a short semi-anthem complete with a catchy guitar riff and head nod-ability. Vervein's music is pretty and quiet yet dynamic enough to continuously engage the listener, making Vast Low Cities a solid dreamy day record and an excellent introduction to a band whose acclaim is surely on the way. --Rooney

Action Man Magazine

You could get lost trying to follow Vervein through the streets and songs of their Vast Low Cities. Corner after corner, the four of them always seem to be a block or two ahead. Just as the dual-female vocals and final drones of the album opener "one whole year" completely lull you into slow-core bliss, you find yourself in a steady nodding to the clean beats and chords of "my disposition." In less than two minutes they already have you wrapped in their "Girl Swirl" sound, as they roll comfortably between the calm and drones of Low and the popping riffs of the Breeders. It's Vervein's ability to manipulate several moods in one song, with songwriter Jess Congdon's dream imbued lyrics, the occasional haunting cello overlay, and the overall intricacy of their arrangements, that really pulls you in to the album and their sound. Vervein haven't received enough exposure outside of San Francisco yet to make it in to many of the all-girl band lists or to get mentioned in any of the recent articles on women in rock. But it's just a matter of time. With a sound this solid, and an album this good, they can't stay hidden for long. --Christopher

Live at the Hemlock Tavern

Vervein completely kicked my ass last night at the Hemlock. The women of Vervein play a fine breed of atmospheric guitar rock that straddles the line between soundscapes and song structures. Dual vocals, intricate arpeggios, and dynamics galore drove their set. The first few songs one of the guitarists played cello and later the bassist picked up a guitar for a 3 axe assult that was utterly unlike that of Judas Priest. The drummer was amazing, able to play both quietly and loudly with a certain fury rarely felt in the average indie rock set. When gathering the perfunctory references I think immediately of Mazzy Star meets Godspeed You Black Emperor! meets the Breeders. The songs were really great, although their lack of a proper cd forced me to leave the show empty handed yet happily cloudy headed. --Rooney

Noise Pop Festival 2002 - San Francisco

With roots in local bands like Dolores Haze, Shackleton, Ee and a ton of others, the four women of Vervein are pedigreed indie rockers. Haunting, droning and moody, Vervein recall Kristin Hersch crossed with Galaxie 500. And that's a good thing.

From: Green, Ajax
Date: Fri Jan 4, 2002 12:17 pm
Subject: High five...
Hey, remember when this list was about music? Does anybody remember laughter? Here's five music things this week. It's been awhile and I know my 'taste' sucks so get off my back already. But anyway, here's some things you might not have heard.
(1. - 3.)
4. Vervein "Station", live from the Ivy Room on 11.10.01 (so digital!). Vervein is not only rad, but on this bootleg from the oft-mentioned Albany hangout Ivy Room contains some mullet-related audience banter that you will not want to miss. Apparently, someone in the audience showed up with an irony-mullet, and you can hear the admiration of his friends, along with the debate over whether or not to wear a hat. Also, Vervein is rad.

From: daz
Reply-To: sf_indie@yahoogroups.com
To: sf_indie@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [sf_indie] ylt / encore / vervein
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001 18:59:33 -0000

...And how about that Vervein Friday night at DuNord? They were GREAT!!! I'd highly recommend everyone to check them out. Not only are their songs wonderful and dreamy, they also completely won my heart when they covered Bauhaus's "Crowds" - ooooooof, that took me back a ways. Very nice.