On Veronica Mars & Into Colour: Rumer Has It

Years ago, when I worked at TV Guide, a preview cassette of the pilot for a new UPN series titled Veronica Mars arrived on my desk. The premise, about a teen detective, seemed a tad hokey. But I was paid to watch TV, as I sometimes joked, so I confiscated one of the office’s many portable TV-VCRs from another writer, popped in the tape and was smitten. The pilot was noir-ish in style if not substance, smart and sassy, and aimed at all viewers, not just teens. The main character, played by Kristen Bell, wasn’t a one-dimensional Nancy Drew-like sleuth, but fully formed and deeply layered. She was cast out from her school’s cool clique not long after her best friend Lily’s murder, and in the time since had grown cynical – while, at her core, remaining idealistic. As her new pal Wallace said, “underneath that angry young woman shell, there’s a slightly less angry young woman… You’re a marshmallow, Veronica Mars. A Twinkie!”

I brought the tape home and watched it again with Diane. She loved it, too, and for the next three years we enjoyed the series’ season-long mysteries and intrigues d’jour. But we were two of few fans; like many a good series, the show never attracted the audience needed to stay on the air. Some blamed the complex storylines, opining that viewers feared they’d be lost if they missed an episode or two. The truth, I’m afraid, is far more mundane. There are certain rules about TV. To paraphrase Col. Blake from M*A*S*H, rule number one is that, sometimes, good shows are cancelled; and rule number two is that no one, aside from a network president, can change rule number one.

Veronica has been on my mind for a simple reason: Diane and I have just finished re-watching the series. We hadn’t intended to get sucked in. I stumbled upon it on Amazon Prime one night and clicked on the pilot; Diane came in halfway through and now, a month and a half later, we’ve concluded with the final season’s bittersweet end. Tomorrow, we’ll watch the movie (which we helped fund via Kickstarter) again, then I’ll re-listen to the Thousand Dollar Tan Line audiobook (voiced by Kristen Bell) and, finally, read the latest VM novel, Mr. Kiss and Tell.

A good series is like a good book. You don’t want it to end; and, when it does, you want to watch it again to pick up on anything you may have missed the first time through – or, simply, to enjoy it once more.

And that, believe it or not, is a rather roundabout introduction to this, my review of the latest album by Rumer, Into Colour, which is due out in the U.S. on Feb. 10th. While it’s neither noir-ish nor teen-driven, it is retro and, when it’s over, you’ll likely want to listen to it again and again. At least, that’s been true for me. It arrived in my mailbox not long after its November 2014 release in the U.K. and quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year.

As with the first two albums from the British pop chanteuse, Seasons of My Soul and Boys Don’t Cry, the songs conjure an era when “adult contemporary” was in vogue – i.e., from the late 1960s through the ‘70s. It was, as its name makes clear, music aimed at adults. Not old folks, I hasten to add, but people who’d grown beyond the simple concerns that make up much, though certainly not all, of pop and rock music.

The adult contemporary of yore was also, in its own idiosyncratic way, very inclusive, liberally integrating elements from pop, rock, disco, country, singer-songwriter and soul into a melodic whole. The Carpenters are probably the best example, but others who mined the terrain include the 5th Dimension, Stephen Bishop, Art Garfunkel, Carole King, Gladys Knight, Olivia Newton-John, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, the Spinners, James Taylor and Dionne Warwick. The Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham-era Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney circa Tug of War and post-1977 Crosby, Stills & Nash are other examples. Seductive melodies, delectable vocals and wondrous harmonies accented the songs, which primarily focused on matters of the heart and soul.

Such is the case with Rumer’s Into Colour. “Dangerous” blends disco (by way of TSOP) with lyrics about re-committing to the idea of love, let alone love itself. She’s been wounded before and fears she’ll be wounded again; but what else can she do but, however begrudgingly, give in?

The stellar “Reach Out” may well be the finest song written about depression –

And “Butterfly” is a beautiful, moving song about loss. There’s really no more that can be said about it than that. It’s magical.

There is a certain sadness etched into the album’s grooves, but also some whimsy. “Better Place,” a celebration of everyday people, is one example. Another is “Pizza and Pinball,” in which she sings of setting aside technology, going outside to play…and winds up watching Saturday morning cartoons. It’s wistful yet light-hearted, and somewhat reminiscent of “Back Seat of My Car” from Paul and Linda McCartney’s classic Ram. The melody pushes and pulls the listener along while the lyrics conjure the things of childhoods long past. The wordplay and “clickety-clack, clickety-clack” refrain are a delight.

I could drone on about each and every track but, really, there’s no need. Head over to Rumer’s SoundCloud page and listen for yourself. That said, for me, Into Colour is an involving, emotional and magical journey, and one I heartily recommend taking. It resonates with the soul.

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