Velveteen - 27 (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


27 (2010)


German act Velveteen gained notoriety a few years ago when a supposed leaked copy of Death Cab for Cutie's then-upcoming Narrow Stairs really just turned out to be Velveteen's own album, Home Waters, released a couple months prior. But the Internet prank worked because of the stark similarities between frontman Carsten Schrauff and DCFC demigod Ben Gibbard. Really, though, it was okay, because the album was pretty fucking good. Like DCFC, Velveteen composed atmospheric, heartbreaking songs from picturesque, concrete narratives, seemingly based upon a similar spate of inspirations like Built to Spill and American Football. It's important to repeat this background info not only because the band still haven't seemed to break into the North American indie rock scene at this point in time, but because with their fourth full-length, 27, they really seem to do away with that motif entirely and come away just as successfully in the songs.

Velveteen have long seemed to cite another whole group of influences, that being shoegaze forefathers Ride and My Bloody Valentine. But through the course of their albums that reservoir really seemed to go untapped in their sound--until now. 27 truly does incorporate those bands' droning walls of sound, albeit with Schrauff's more emotionally arcing voice lofting over it. It comes most obvious rather immediately--second track "L.S.P. Wars" brings up instant thoughts of Nowhere.

Varied synths, keys and a Rhodes piano drive a number of these songs hard, though. "I Divided Europe" finds a scratchy keyboard loop colliding with softer layers, while an electronic click-clack pervades the ratchety "Rookie of What?". The carefully morose but otherwise muffled sparkles of "Escape Plans" sounds like a musically brighter take on what Heavens was doing with Patent Pending.

One thing 27 does seem to miss, however, is that undeniable sense of wrenching yearning that made Home Waters such a cathartic, emotionally crushing effort at certain moments. They're fewer and farther between on 27, though not completely void. Schrauff gets away with a major clunker on "The Crystal Bar" simply because of how cynically he says it, the deliberation of punctuality on certain words, and the way he obtusely masks the sincerity of the lines that follow: "You said you had the balls to carry on. / They were way too little. / I'm sure you will be friends with everyone / and I know you want to move on and forth / and we'll be back again." Things are more interesting on the album in general when Schrauff tries some higher scales, though; it adds an undeniable dynamic to what the band is doing, and it's thankfully evident on closer "Little Gaps" as well.

27 seems to fall short of Velveteen's true potential, but it's lovely to hear them trying new things with a roughly similar degree of overall success. Aging influences might continually be conjured up in their sound, but 27 never sounds dated. It's consistently pleasant in a moderately challenging and certainly timeless way.

Rookie of What?