Album Review: The Velvet Teen | “Cum Laude!”
The Velvet Teen is arguably the most unpredictable band in indie rock today. With its humble beginnings, writing extremely catchy and memorable songs about everything from hatred of pop culture and the media (“Radiapathy”) to helplessness (“The Prize Fighter”) and love (“Naked Girl”), to making one of the greatest (and, coincidentally, only) guitar-less indie rock albums, “Elysium.” Its latest release, “Cum Laude!”, bounces back and forth between virtually all the ground that the band has covered, as well as some more.
Why it rocks:
There are tracks like “333,” which feature plenty of dark, dissonant synth, with lyrics to match (“I’ve made a satyr of a saint”) and sound like they would fit perfectly next to some of Radiohead’s Kid A/Amnesiac era material, “Idioteque” in particular. Then there’s the more traditional, riff-driven side of TVT, which sounds like a more atmospheric version of Minus the Bear, as seen on songs like “Spin the Wink.” “Rhodekill” and “Noi Boi” sound a bit more like the bands’ “Elysium” era pieces; very moody and vulnerable with a heavy emphasis on frontman Judah Nagler’s falsetto. This time around, though, the strings have been replaced with subtly strummed guitars and the piano with well placed synth lines.
Nagler sports some of the best pipes in indie rock today, and while his shrill delivery may take some getting used to, it’s incredibly unique and has an undeniable charm to it. One can’t help but sense that
Nagler has left himself completely exposed to his audience and it’s hard not to feel an immediate connection to his tales of heartbreak, longing, love and loss.
“Cum Laude!” is easily one of the best albums to come out this year. Judah Nagler + Co. have strung together 12 genre hopping and occasionally genre-defying tracks that will stay in the dark recesses of your mind. Despite its diversity the album never feels awkward, busy or heavy-handed. The catchy hooks, amazing musicianship and Nagler’s haunting falsetto will find themselves buried in the deep recesses of your mind long after you’ve finished listening to the album, and that is by no means a bad thing.
Song worth a second listen: “333”
Our rating (out of five): * * * * *