The Velvet Teen – Out of the Fierce Parade

The Velvet Teen
Out of the Fierce Parade

I am a selfish editor. Originally, I was going to send The Velvet Teen’s new album off to a writer to review, as I took it for some sort of indie-pop despite knowing better from the label. But one listen convinced me I have to keep this for myself. Out of the Fierce Parade has become my most listened to album in months, and one of my surprise finds. There is no doubt that this album will make my best-of list for the year. In other words, I can’t rave about it enough. Yet I’m going to try.
Oddly enough, since I’ve been raving about them, other DOA writers who have downloaded mp3s compared them to everyone from Incubus to School of Fish. The Velvet Teen sounds nothing like those bands, so fear not. Centered around rich piano, absolutely gorgeous soaring vocals by frontman Judah Nagler (his vocals remind me of Jeff Buckley at times), and a light but strong rhythm section, these songs are things of beauty, with incredibly precise production by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla. At times soft and soulful, at others more up-beat and rocking, there is not a loser on this entire album.
The trio starts soft with the almost dreamy “A Special Gift to You” before leading into the guitar-driven “Radiapathy” that reminds me of the brilliance of Camden. Up-tempo and intense with stellar bass lines, it shows the different but equally strong side of the band. From there, the band combines the sound. There’s a light, poppy feel on “The Prize Fighter,” a more driving, urgent sound with plenty of keyboards on “Caspian Can Wait,” and “Four Story Tantrum” is a passionate track, full of driving guitar and intense vocals.
Perhaps my favorite song is the almost seven-minute “Penning the Penultimate.” Here, Judah’s voice is light and melancholy, starting accompanied only by an acoustic guitar but soft drums come in to give the song a gentle flow. Almost desperately raw, as they sing, “and I struggle so hard for each breath that I take,” it’s a beautiful song, made into a soaring epic by the end. “Your Last Words” ups the tempo a bit, led by emphatic drums and a throbbing bass line, and “Death” finishes soft and dreamy, almost a mournful lullaby, as the piano again comes to the fore to close things out.
This is a long album, and yet it feels too short. Every element here is simply beautiful, even when the song is more up-tempo. But the true brilliance is in the band’s slower, more soaring ballad-like numbers. Never has a piano sounded this good in a pop/rock setting. Add to that the incredible artwork by band member Logan Whitehurst, and you have an album worth treasuring, not merely listening to.