By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Yeah. That's right. The band's name is the Velvet Teen. Which, probably, is one of the main reasons why snootists refuse to even give the Sonoma County band a fair listen—or, at least, that's what I'd like to think. Another problem? Any time a band even remotely sounds like the untouchable Radiohead, people immediately scream sacrilege, put on their snootist hats and then plug their ears while humming Pablo Honey tracks. Okay, sure, Judah Nagler's jarring falsetto has oft been compared to Saint Yorke's and the just-as-untouchable (shut up, snootist!) voice of the late, great Jeff Buckley. And, I guess, if I had to name just one band to compare the Velvet Teen to, it'd be Radiohead. I guess.
Produced by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, the Velvet Teen's first full-length album, Out of the Fierce Parade, hasn't exactly been critically acclaimed—the obligatory sound comparisons were dropped and even that one three-letter-word-that-I-absolutely-hate that starts with an E and ends with a "mo" was used. But some things were overlooked: the undeniable infectiousness of tracks such as "Radiapathy," the crooner's quasi-theatricality of Nagler's voice (Moz? Mercury?) and—most important—the slow-burn tracks with a dreamy, melodic landscape ("A Special Gift to You," "Into the Open," "The Prize Fighter").
The Velvet Teen's latest effort and third LP, Cum Laude, was recorded entirely without the use of guitars—a feat boasted on the stickers that grace the album's cover. Okay, so that sounds a tad bit on the ambitious and/or self-indulgent side—I suppose the two always go together, right?—but haven't the same charges been leveled against every progressive rock band in history? The band's collection of early EPs, Plus Minus Equals, which is no longer in print, is still the highlight of the band's discography thus far, particularly the fantastic dance-y opening tracks "Naked Girl" and "Counting Backwards."
So, by all means, continue worshipping at the altar of the Wonky-Eyed Yorke, but remember also to give the little guys a chance or two. Snootist.