The Velvet Teen w/the Pale, Crosstide, Rescue
Fri Aug 27, Vera Project, 7:30 pm, $9 ($8 w/club card).

Reading through reviews of the Velvet Teen's 2002 debut, Out of the Fierce Parade (produced by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla), one could easily get the impression that the Bay Area trio is truly a critically acclaimed indie pop band.

That successful record had two singles on MTV2, and the band was allotted opening spots alongside artists like Cursive and Death Cab. It was their first full-length release, and already the Velvet Teen were high on the list for many music scribes (Heckler magazine gushed, "The Velvet Teen constructs a magnificent mélange of new material, ranging from dreary, heart-wrenching ballads to angst-filled rockers"). If they wanted to, the band could've made another record just the same as their first, and us rock writers probably would've swooned over it just the same.

But the young act is obviously ambitious, because instead of recanting that which everyone already loved, they changed the game completely--recording their sophomore release, Elysium, without using even one lonely guitar.

Honestly, though, it isn't missed.

On Elysium, beautiful string compositions drift alongside gentle waves of piano melody. And singer Judah Nagler's voice is as passionate as ever, shattering past comparisons to Thom Yorke and Jeremy Enigk and placing him in an emotion-baring league all his own. It's a quieter record that swells more in mood than in volume, and its intricacies are within the dynamics of organic instruments like woodwinds intermixing with synthesizers. "Heartbreakingly beautiful" may be cliché, but it's rarely more fitting a description than for this album.

megan@thestranger.com

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