Aveo CD release show w/Ester Drang, the Preons

Sun March 7, Crocodile, 8 pm, $8 (18+).

Songs expressing heartbreak have been fueling pop music since the genre's recognition, long before Dylan's 1966 "Ballad in Plain D," or "I'll Cry Instead" by the Beatles. It's a simple process, really--a lyricist experiences or observes some sort of emotional letdown, and writes a song about how he or she felt in its aftermath. Some songs, however, are actually heartbreaking. It is a much more rare occurrence when just listening to a song makes you ache, as if you, too, had suffered a painful loss.

Aveo's "Desert and the Great Divorce" (from their new album, Battery), with its story of a love affair from innocence to distrust, will break your heart, maybe even drive you to tears. At the very least, it will compel you to replay it immediately, even if doing so means you'll get your heart broken all over again. It goes from a young couple striking out on a life together ("If all of these mountains are the oyster shell, then we built this life here from the only pearl"), to signing legal documents ("You get the house, I get the furniture, the clock/You'll get the dog, I'll get the lawn tools and the tandem bike"), to anger giving way to grief ("Without you walking around I'm sick all the time/Can't get up today") in a story of singer/guitarist William Wilson's parents' divorce.

While each of the three members of Aveo (which includes bassist Mike Hudson and drummer Jeff MacIsaac) is bright and friendly, Wilson is disarmingly sentimental and unguarded in conversation. His infectious laugh comes out of nowhere, its hardiness rollicking and joyful to a point not heard much in these days of jaded self-consciousness. He's the kind of guy who instantly knows what you're talking about, and can elaborate on it whether you're telling him you consume too much sugar or that your LEGO set was lame and small ("I know which one you're talking about--the pieces were just red, white, and blue?").

The subject matter may be downhearted, but the tempo of the melody in "Desert and the Great Divorce" is urgent and, for the most part, buoyant. Wilson says more than anything, he loves melodicism, a motivation his bandmates hold in common. In fact, the song was originally conceived to be much faster in tempo. "The song was written before Bridge to the Northern Lights [released in 2001 on Brown Records] and it took a long time for us to convince William to record it," says Hudson. "It's gone through several changes to get to where it is on the new album." It's an organic process, says MacIsaac, attributing the fact that despite their relative youth, the musicians have been playing together for more than a decade. When he was 14, the drummer was naive enough to audition for a forgotten band in which he would replace Sunny Day Real Estate's William Goldsmith but was passed over in favor of Black Heart Procession's Joe Plummer, both highly respected musicians. There's a guileless irony in that, but one that offers a glimpse into just how MacIsaac has fallen into the ranks of Seattle's most naturally instinctive drummers. And Hudson is an equally instinctive bass player, informative, sensitive, never overbearing.

Aside from obvious musical talent that bridges poignant lyrics, deeply layered indie-rock melodies, and Wilson's elastic vocals, Aveo has a knack for packing albums with whimsical song titles: the first record's "To the End of This Dull Continent"; Battery's "Dust That Dreams of Brooms," and "The Idiot on the Bike." The latter is stridently cynical, and oddly defiant, complete with la-la-la-la's: "I've been told/it's getting much warmer everywhere in the world/But guess what?/The tempers are, too/Guess what now, ma?/It's getting much colder everywhere in the world/But so what?/The people are too." The album closes beautifully with "3:33 a.m. --The Insomnia Waltz" (striking that waltz-loving gene all romantics possess). The song is surprisingly upbeat with Wilson wishing, amidst piano and chimes, for "a sister for me/may she find me inside a twister/and she'll warm my hands/make me walk up straight/make me get some sleep when it's late." And though it's not intentional, the album's first song, "Newton and Galileo," runs three minutes and 33 seconds, and the last finishes out appropriately at three minutes, 35 seconds, as if the insomniac's clock has just crossed over a crucial, perfect moment--the same three words that sum up Battery.

kathleen@thestranger.com

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