Bridge to the Northern Lights
(Brown Records)

Aveo (CD Release)
w/ Poseur, S

Sat June 2, Sit & Spin, 441-9484.

While his label is still in a relative state of infancy, Brown Records' Ben Bridwell is proving himself to be most adroit at choosing new bands. The success of Carissa's Wierd (and Jenn Ghetto's solo project, S) has flagged the attention of certain austere and pretentious Chicago labels of late, as well as local and national media. And the hype is validated. The second release from Carissa's Wierd, You Should Be at Home Here, currently rests comfortably within the Northwest Top 20, joining the band's Ugly But Honest and S's Sadstyle.

Aveo's debut release, Bridge to the Northern Lights, reflects a sensibility similar to the band's more established label mates, with plaintive, at times even precious lyrical content, and fine, visceral melodies. However, Aveo has a less fragile sound than Carissa's Wierd and S--a mid-tempo, Brit-pop savvy that is at once tuneful and challenging.

Though the band has been playing live in Seattle for only about a year, crowds have recently been turning out in droves, thanks to a fortuitous series of performance slots with other bands. "We're really happy that things have happened the way they did with Carissa's Wierd," says drummer Jeff MacIsaac over a beer at Linda's Tavern. "We met them and we really liked them, and we all became friends." I ask MacIsaac and bassist Michael Hudson if they feel, as many in Seattle do, that Brown has the potential of being the next Up Records. But these are humble people: Both MacIsaac and Hudson get awkward when asked about the hype that surrounds them. As a response to nearly 50 percent of my questions, MacIsaac himself says, "We're really, really happy."

Anyway, the record speaks for itself. The opening song, "Laughter Leaves You," begins with a disappointment: Singer/guitarist William Wilson's voice, trilling breathily over only his guitar, lacks the zeal and emotional urgency that informs Aveo's music. But as the song progresses into the refrain, "Happiness come closer to this tune," sung grandly over a catchy, staccatoed guitar line, clean drumming, and an almost bluesy bass part, the album's mood starts to take shape around the lyrics--a high, bright expression that is at once bratty and earnest. The song tinkers and meanders, is splashy in sections, and constantly intimates pop grandeur moments before achieving it.

Wilson's voice is fluttery and soulful throughout Bridge to the Northern Lights. His lyrics are mostly sad ("Never been safe at home/You know they don't miss you," from "Never Home"), and he is always high in the mix, informing the record. The production is treble-heavy, compliments of Phil Eck (Built to Spill), spotlighting the band's affinity for immaculate noise. And then Aveo's songs have a way of turning sonically inward, as on "Magnetic Halos." The song is jangly and unremarkable up until a pause at the chorus, where a series of stuttering chords are played, becoming brighter with every hit until the song opens anew, to reveal something infinitely warmer than it had been prior to the chorus. Finally, the track is layered with a lush vocal harmony that becomes the song's center. The record is full of moments like these, and though they are often subtle, they get under your skin. "Never Home," with its maniacally strummed, near-Spanish-style electric guitar lines and trilling, desperate vocals (which include a weird hiccup about halfway through) is perhaps the most rewarding and uplifting song on the album, revealing the band's deadpan nostalgia for the Smiths.

"It's going to be interesting to see how many people actually come out to see this show," Hudson says. The band seems to believe that audiences have only been present to see the many talented friends with whom Aveo has been playing. Yet such doubt is unwarranted. The crowd stands rapt at Aveo shows, and anyone who has been witness to the band's live trajectory over the past year has also been witness to Aveo's increasing confidence and maturity. MacIsaac is now raggedly animated, flailing behind his drum kit. Wilson's guitar playing seems effortless, obviously having benefited from the recording process. Only Hudson has remained unchanged, a consistently solid bass player throughout.

There will be a fourth member onstage for this show, Ken Jarvey, who plays accordion and guitar on the record. MacIsaac and Hudson tell me they plan on adding Jarvey as a permanent member of Aveo. "We've always planned on adding another guitar player," MacIsaac says. "We just didn't want to add anyone we didn't really like. But with Ken, things are working out well and we're really happy to have him playing."

The show's lineup will be rounded out by S and Poseur, all of whom are good friends with Aveo, guaranteeing that the show will be a supportive, Seattle- style love fest. On the subject of how Aveo feels about having Poseur and S on the bill, MacIsaac responds thoughtfully: "We're really, really happy about everything."