When last we left Jake Brennan he was fronting the local alt-country outfit Shelly Shredder. But after bursting out of the gate with a series of well-received shows last year, that band has gone quiet, presumably to regroup following a significant lineup change last summer. In the meantime, Brennan has recorded a side project under the name Violette Ultraviolet alongside multi-instrumentalist Rob Voland. The duo’s debut EP, Love Wait What Yes, is a downcast affair filled with songs of lost love and longing. While not as raucous as Shredder’s canon, it is still an impressive effort, deserving of a place in the record stacks of local alt-country fans — not to mention the recently heartbroken.
The EP opens on “Lovers.” Over reverb-laden hollow-bodied-guitar chords, Brennan howls barely intelligible, lovelorn lines. Here, his anguished yelp is less the “young Ryan Adams” that Shredder fans have come to know and love, and closer to the wailing of Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett. In either case, his creaky croon imparts more than enough wounded pathos to get the point across — with or without the benefit of reading the lyric sheet.
On the following cut, “Leonard Coen,” Brennan borrows the progression from Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah.” Through the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift, he spins a bleary-eyed tale of love going bad. Like Cohen’s tune, there is a spiritual overtone implicit in Brennan’s adaptation. But where Cohen’s religiosity was allegorical, Brennan’s is seemingly more literal. “You could have God and take my holidays / I want you, plus God ain’t mine anyway,” he sings. It’s a passable homage to Cohen. But more importantly, it is a devastatingly effective heartbreaker.
The mood shifts on the next track, “Chatter,” sonically, at least. Emboldened by a propulsive backbeat and shimmering array of fleeting aural specters, Brennan takes a more forceful approach. It’s almost like he’s working through the post-breakup stages of grief and has entered the anger and/or bargaining phases.
“Confession” is an appropriately disjointed song that develops from a dispassionately ethereal piece into a surging wall of guitars and open vocals. It maintains a ghostly aesthetic throughout, but as it builds in emotional intensity, it takes on a sinister feel.
Love Wait What Yes closes on the mostly acoustic number “Maybe.” Based around little more than acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies and the occasional twinkle of piano, it is the EP’s strongest, but sparest, cut. The song features Brennan’s most direct songwriting and his most understated vocal performance. While the sonic experimentation found on the preceding numbers is certainly engaging, it is interesting that the album’s best track is also its simplest.
Violette Ultraviolet debut at Radio Bean this Saturday, March 16.