Very Secretary's contribution to the Post Marked Stamps compilation demonstrated a new and slightly more acoustic sound for the group, which is more fully realized on Standing in the Shade. This album plants itself firmly in the realm of delicate, occasionally melancholy pop tunes, with deep and longing violin lines threading their way through the group's whispery guitar constructions.
It's a release that might not find a lot of love outside of the indie-pop community, but one that fans of Kissing Book, Motion Picture, the Lucksmiths, or the more pensive end of Sarah Records pop will doubtlessly enjoy.
I had such a hard time writing this review. I sat for an hour staring at the screen, rubbing my temples and stealing sporadic looks at the ceiling. I guess it's just my fear of saying "this album sucks" by who I used to think of as one of the very greatest bands in the autumn/winter of 99. (keep in mind I reside in koala land) But here goes. After much waiting and much anticipation, I received a call from the store to pick up Very Secretary's latest. You might've read other reviews comparing the sounds of this record to that of Elliot Smith. I could pretend and say, "Hell yeah! It's sooo Elliot Smith, don't you think?" But I've not heard enough of Elliot Smith to make that comparison. Once upon a time I did have a listen to Mr Smith and I classified him under [Boring]. But Standing In The Shade is far from boring. Yes, it sucks but it's not boring. Over the last couple of days, these 10 tracks had my mind fluctuating back and forth. The 1st time "Feeling Cheated" invaded my ear drums, instantaneously I thought The Beatles' Norwegian Wood. Nothing wrong with The Beatles of course but something's very wrong with David Johnson's vocals. It just didn’t match the flowing rythmic accoustics. It's like they decided to cut and paste certain guitar layers here and there and just added vocals and un-rhyming lyrics. (not that rhyming is important) But it felt like certain tracks were incomplete and with some seeming to go on forever but ending very abruptly just when you start to get the hang of it. I guess I was expecting more clones of Nakargot. (which appeared in the fall 98 sampler / tree records post marked stamps comp. cd etc) Politic, however, has got me hitting the repeat button. And humming along unconsciously. It has a simple yet clever structure differentiating the secretaries from any other "accoustic" band with violins. It's not that bad an album, really. Just not very emergency. File this together with your Rainer Marias and American Footballs. And oh, Elliot Smith of course.
Melancholy indie-pop outift Very Secretary was formed in Champaign-Urbana, IL in March of 1997 by singer/guitarist Dave Johnson, his bassist brother Allen, guitarist Tim Adamson and ex-Braid drummer Roy Ewing. Following the group's 1998 debut, Best Possible Souvenir, Adamson left the line-up and was replaced by violinist Rachael Dietkus, heralding an even more lush, mournful sound first glimpsed on "Nagarkot," Very Secretary's contribution to Tree Records' Postmarked Stamps singles series. The band's sophomore LP, the lovely Standing in the Shade, appeared in mid-1999, but while touring the following spring, Very Secretary disbanded.
All Music Guide
Seldom (damn near never) does a band come out of an incestuous and trendy scene like the Midwest's indie-emo-pop culture and do something so remarkably different from their peers and label mates as Very Secretary has. Although remaining part of the tight-knit group, VS operates on the other end of the spectrum from pals like Braid (Roy Ewing's old band) and the Promise Ring (with whom Rachael Dietkus has collaborated). The difference is duly noted and overwhelmingly appreciated. Standing in the Shade marks Very Secretary's return to a quartet with the departure of guitarist Tim Adamson. This album also showcases the complete inclusion of Dietkus' violin which is used with amazing cohesion alongside the standard rock three piece to create a very nonstandard sound. Using the violin is an old trick in indie rock but VS incorporate the bow and strings so flawlessly that it is almost unnoticed within the composition. "Sister Psyche" weaves seamlessly through three and a half minutes of sound that is at the same time somber and rejoiceful, quietly overriding David Johnson's softly sung vocals. The entire album is more acoustic feeling than last year's Best Possible Souvenir and the super slow burn of "Countryless" gives a taste of the ultra-subdued sound that VS seem to be heading toward. Taken with their nearly non-existent tour schedule, the richness and complexity of Very Secretary's music could limit them to a life of obscurity in today's hook-laden, radio friendly indie rock world but will undoubtedly ensure them much deserved respect from those who happen to find them, myself included.Eric J Herboth
Lost At Sea