Release Date: Jun 30, 2015
Record label: Top Shelf Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
The Velvet Teen's first four releases, from 2000-2002, were their take on emo of the day; then, they audaciously leapt from the pretty bass, strings, brass and piano of Elysium (2004) to the erratic, progressive electronic foray Cum Laude! (2006) — the band's most experimental work to date and their last full-length. Nine years later, the Velvet Teen return with their fourth full-length.All is Illusory sounds like the band are finally settling down. Their newest offering combines the band's established delicate, refined sensibility ("The Giving In") with flourishes of synth ("Pecos") and a dose of their indie rock inclinations ("Eclipses," the album's highlight).
Though All Is Illusory is the Velvet Teen’s first LP in nine years and is being released on a trendsetting label, I’m not sure it could be accurately called "highly anticipated. " The California quartet released a few solid records of experimental, mid-aughts indie pop that were easy to overlook because they never quite fit into any sort of trend or local scene. In fact, their biggest moment since 2006 was probably accidental: they may have been momentarily confused with the German band Velveteen, who generated a brief period of notoriety in 2008 by disguising their own album as a "leaked" advance copy of Death Cab For Cutie’s Narrow Stairs (the Velvet Teen’s debut Out of the Fierce Parade was produced by former Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla).
Say what you will about the Velvet Teen, but they clearly aren't afraid to think big. In the nine years since 2006's Cum Laude, they seem to have carefully filed away every idea that struck their fancy, and they've poured all of them into 2015's All Is Illusory, an album that fairly bursts with grand-scale indie energy, as tunes like "Eclipses" and "Pecos" pop like a string of fireworks with percolating rhythms and spunky washes of keyboards. But the Velvet Teen aren't hesitant about making use of dynamics, setting the propulsive, upbeat numbers against pieces like the spare, quiet guitar feature "Taken Over," or the mournful title track.
The Velvet Teen proved their flexibility with their first three albums, fitting plenty of ideas into three protean albums, mixing indie rock and piano ballads with glitchy electronic sounds. It’s been nine years since their last full-length record, and despite everything that’s happened since then, it’s not surprising that they’d have plenty to throw at the wall. Unfortunately, it’s often too much.