The Lineup


New York City, N.Y.

New York City’s Versus are masters of subtle, gestural contrast. Their songs are often best understood backwards, as an unexpected blast of guitar noise retroactively exposes the felt-but-not-heard sense of space in the verse. For more than 20 years, the band has been constructing sly, economical songs that stick like pop and hit like rock but are far too smart to be limited to “pop-rock.”

From the band’s beginnings, Versus has been driven by the interplay between vocalists Richard Baluyut and Fontaine Toups. Their voices are not directly oppositional, nor are they directly complementary; they coexist in various degrees of harmony and tension. For the first decade of the band’s existence, Versus found increasingly novel ways to fit dissonant, jabbing guitar parts and off-kilter harmonies into perfectly constructed, immediately compelling songs. After the release of the aptly titled would-be-last Hurrah in 2000, Versus went on hiatus with a solid and consistent discography.

The band returned in 2010 to a world that apparently needed music that takes a couple listens to fully process, shining on its surface but rewarding close attention. Wow, did they deliver—their first album after a 10-year hiatus, On the Ones and Threes, may be their very best. There is no return-to-form posturing, no shallow attempts to show that they can still rock it out, just the same band with more perspective and experience. Seeing as their music has always been complex and a little dark, it’s not terribly surprising that Versus wear their age so well. This music is catchy enough for head-nodding and substantive enough to stay with you well after the song is over. We are lucky to have them back. —Matt LeMay