Veil Veil Vanish: Change in the Neon Light

RIYL: Pom Pom Diary, The Sounds, White Lies

Metaphor time. Take a chocolate cake, for instance. Even a bad one has some tasty bits, and a good one is always a treat, no matter how many times you’ve had it before. Sure you can feel like you’ve OD’d on too much chocolate, but give it a little time, and you’ll be back for more.

A lot of rock music genres are the same way. The musical elements that define them as a genre or style are the same elements that become quite familiar and overused, both appealing and repetitive all at once. The heavily ’80s-influenced post punk revival of the past decade fits this description to a “T”, as does the debut album by Veil Veil Vanish, Change in the Neon Light. Only seconds in, it is obvious where the San Fran quartet got their recipe; it is all Cure, spiced with Echo & the Bunnymen, sprinkled with early U2 and iced with Gene Loves Jezebel. There is nothing subtle here, and one could argue it is derivative, but that is only on the surface. Take one big bite and you’ll find that Change in the Neon Light is one helluva good chocolate cake.

The atmospheric qualities of the entire album are shimmering and driving, an album full of layered guitars and danceable percussion. The opening title track and final song “Wilderness” perfectly bookend the darkly emotive mood that fills the album. Keven Tecon’s vocals are plaintive but never whiny, while Robert Marzio deserves MVP accolades for signature drums that carry every song forward relentlessly. The album never lets up. From beginning to end there is not a weak track, and it really hits its stride in the second half with “Secondhand Daylight,” where Amy Rosenoff’s bass line and Cameron Ray’s guitars play off each other expressively, and “Detachment,” which serves up Siouxsie Sioux-like power. “It’s no fun if it doesn’t leave a mark,” they sing, and this album proves the point.

Veil Veil Vanish (a name just ridiculous enough to stick) is a surprisingly strong as a band on this debut, and it bodes well for the future. They haven’t drastically changed the recipe in creating Change in the Neon Light, but they definitely know how to cook. Their debut sets a high bar for the next course. Recommended. (Metropolis Records 2010)

Veil Veil Vanish MySpace page


The Black Hollies: Softly Towards the Light

RIYL: The Beatles, Happy Mondays, The Takeover UK

Take the late ’60s Beatles and other British blues/psychedelia, shoot it through with early ’90s Madchester energy, add a sprinkle of indie pop sensibility and you get groovy if none-to-deep third album by the Black Hollies. Depth isn’t really necessary for this kind of album, though. Softly Towards the Light is so indebted to its sources that every track seems immediately recognizable, as if you’d heard these songs long ago sitting in front of your parent’s old hi-fi system as a kid. This immediately begs the question, “Why not listen to the originals, then?” and that is where that those “sprinkles” of modern production and indie introspection provide just enough of something different to make it resonate with today. Much of this can be attributed to Justin Angelo Morley’s breathy vocals, which carry a forceful earnestness that gives Doors-esque lines like “Lead me to the fire burning in your soul” an innocence rather than lustful intent. That is something that seems to be missing on Softly Towards… as British Blues had a earthy carnal quality, and Madchester was hedonistic in many ways, the Black Hollies bring a lighter touch that provides an airy, nothing short of happy feeling that is rare in pop music. Happy is usually relegated to overproduced, kid-smiley, bubblegum pop and not considered appropriate for adults. Here, this positive energy works extremely well with the counterpoint of Nicholas Ferrante’s bombastic drumming. The danceable, get-your-feet-moving pleasure of the Black Hollies can be credited to being caught up in Ferrante’s powerful rhythms that manages to ground them just enough to keep the rest of the band from floating away. The power tracks on the album that bring all of this together are the outstanding “Gloomy Monday Morning” in the number two slot, and “Number Ten Girl” with its soulful, darkly trippy groove.

All in all, Softly Toward the Light is an excellent album by the New Jersey quartet, and demonstrates not just a fidelity toward their sources and craft, but a real passion for making these classic sounds their own true expression. Ernest Jenning Record Co.

The Black Hollies MySpace page


Army Navy: Army Navy

I am going to say something Army Navy will love, followed by something that will make them want to kill me. Army Navy’s self-titled album is a dandy collection of jangly pop rock that will have fans of Robyn Hitchcock and Teenage Fanclub jumping for joy. Singer Justin Kennedy has a delicate but steady voice, and his melodies are instantly hummable. Now for the part that will make their blood boil: they’re a power pop band, which is usually the kiss of death for a band’s commercial prospects. Still, who knows: Jack’s Mannequin’s first album was a power pop record, and they’re doing just fine, thank you. That said, Jack’s Mannequin never wrote anything as dreamy and harmony-laden as “Dark as Days” or “Slight of Hand,” the latter of which just scored a spot on the soundtrack for “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Will Kennedy’s connection to Ben Gibbard (they were both in the band Pinwheel) carry Army Navy over the power pop barrier? God, we hope so. We understand the bias against power pop – most of the bands that play it admittedly suck – but Army Navy deserves better than that. Here’s hoping they get it. (The Fever Zone 2008)

Army Navy MySpace page


Andy Bopp: This Guitar Kills Singer Songwriters

To paraphrase an old expression, this Bopp apparently never drops. Taking leave of his day job at the helm of the Myracle Brah, and his sometime side project Love Nut, Andy Bopp ups the ante on multi-tasking via a solo sojourn ironically dubbed This Guitar Kills Singer Songwriters. The result is a 12-song set that sounds more like a batch of demos, all sung solo but with earnest and engaging intent. Fleshed out, the tunes would find a fit with his usual power pop motif, but stripped to their essence, they draw distinct similarities to early Todd Rundgren, Jason Falkner and the Posies’ Jon Auer, both in amplitude and attitude. Like them, Bopp tends to dwell on heartfelt platitudes and downcast emotions, especially as evidenced by the despairing “Broken,” a wistful “If You Go Away” and the lo-fi pair “Good Day to the Night” and “Hearts of Fire.” Indeed, the high standard Bopp sets as a singer/songwriter should dissuade this guitar from engaging in any malicious mayhem. (Rainbow Quartz 2008)

Andy Bopp MySpace page


The Little Ones: Morning Tide

The Little Ones are one of those indie pop bands that are able to create music that transcends the makeup of each member. And even then, that describes so many bands that you have to be very special to stand out. Well, what the Little Ones do on their debut, Morning Tide (on Alexandra Patsavas’ Chop Shop label), is create catchy, witty and well-arranged music that is equal parts modern cool (think the Shins) and retro bounce (think a more guitar-driven Erasure). It’s the kind of album that sticks in your head and makes you pay attention without even realizing you’re paying attention, deeming the Little Ones the kind of act that should have staying power in a messed up music industry. But that’s not to say Morning Tide is anything more than very good. Let’s face it, the high tenor, almost-falsetto vocal thing of Ed Reyes and others is getting old (the Shins’ James Mercer and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke receive a pass here). That, and some of these tracks are riveting (the title track, “Rise and Shine” or “Like a Spoke on a Wheel”) while others are just bland and derivative (“All Your Modern Boxes” or “Gregory’s Chant”). See what the fuss is about, and temper your expectations just a bit. But the Little Ones will likely be around for a while. (Chop Shop)

The Little Ones MySpace Page