Drawing from Harry Nilsson to Billie Holiday, The Kinks and The Beatles, but taking thoseinfluences to a trippier, weirder place, Denver-based five-piece VARLET just released its debut full-length American Hymns, the follow up to The Drifter EP (self-released, 2011). American Hymns juxtaposes Varlet's signature dark, indie rock psychedelia and lyrics against bright—even poppy—instrumentation.
Navigating through ragtime, jazz, and rock and roll, Varlet holed up for 10 days at Hideaway Studios (which has also housed My Morning Jacket, The Swayback) in the mountains of Colorado, along with friend and engineer James Barone (of Tennis) to record an album that comments on contemporary America. Reflecting on the album as a whole, lead vocalist Lilly Scott states, "Every song on the record works as its own self-contained story, but those stories all correlate back to the same idea—trying to liberate yourself physically and emotionally in a country where it feels impossible to do so." On American Hymns, Scott's classic vocals have matured into a strong, consistently nostalgic jazz falsetto, while Varlet's music is more complex, varied, and interesting. A handful of songs on the new album have Lilly sharing lead vocals with drummer Will Duncan, while the rest of the band appears as a catchy, call-and-response chorus in unexpected moments. The album ends with the surprisingly straightforward "Borealis," a haunting mosaic of stories that bind us all together, a collection of American hymns.
Varlet's music has appeared in performances at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Spring 2013 ad campaign for Born/Born Crown Shoes, and will appear in the forthcoming European airing of award-winning independent film The Silent Thief (starring Frances Fisher, Kurt Fuller, Toby Hemingway).
"Scott's prominent vocals seem to dance in perfect synch with the music. There's always been a strong jazz vein in Varlet's musical DNA, but this time out [on the American Hymns LP], it's fully integrated into the band's pop songcraft, most appreciably on the elegantly crafted title track." - Westword
"[W]ith [Lilly Scott's] charming and spot-on vocals, the band can span any number of genres in one track" - Hey Reverb
"Varlet is a study in contradiction. Their songs are chippy and quaint, yet the lyrics are X-rated." - Out Front
"Denver-based five-piece band Varlet has crafted one of the most stunning records of 2011 [their EP The Drifter]. The band's distinct sound is a hauntingly beautiful blend: It's folky, psychedelic and jazzy." - The Huffington Post