The Oak Room The Blogspot by Oak Room Blogspot Velvet:No One HereCracker(from The Juggernaut 2006. Buy it here.)Here's the chicken-vs-egg puzzle of Velvet's new recording, Juggernaut: do they have such a great throwback power-pop sound because...
All Music Guide by All Music Guide Initially, Velvet's sophomore set, Juggernaut, sounds deceptively simple, comprising a dozen pop/rockers that run the gamut from dreamy and breezy to punchy, a duplicity compounded by the set's...
The Oak Room The Blogspot by Oak Room Blogspot
No One Here
(from The Juggernaut 2006. Buy it here.)
Here's the chicken-vs-egg puzzle of Velvet's new recording, Juggernaut: do they have such a great throwback power-pop sound because Mitch Easter produced the album, or was he just the logical choice to bring out their existing style? (I know, the answer is probably both and neither, but indulge my introductory conceit, OK?) One reason I wonder is that their bio claims that they started out as "a Wilmington-based art-rock outfit", and they sure don't sound like that anymore. I like guitarist Jay Manley's description in this article: "We sound like Chapel Hill in 1983" -- they are definitely working a sound that has at least some roots in the dB's/Let's Active sound of that era. The one objection I have to this is that the drums in particular sound like that as well, rather than something a bit more contemporary.
Juggernaut is a fine collection of hooks and harmonies , but it also gets a lot of mileage out of bassist Jane Francis' exuberant vocals. On "No One Here" she shares the vocals with Manley (who is also her husband), but "Cracker" is a ripping rocker that's all hers. Evidently it's been a struggle to get the album out -- the article linked above is three years old and refers to it as "forthcoming". Whatever the reason for the delay, it's a welcome arrival.
(from Skeletons for Tea, 2005. Buy/download)
A bonus track from Francis' solo album, since I'm so fond of her voice. This is the only track I have heard from Skeletons for Tea, but if the whole thing follows suit, its much more of a rootsy/folky affair than Velvet.
All Music Guide by All Music Guide
Initially, Velvet's sophomore set, Juggernaut, sounds deceptively simple, comprising a dozen pop/rockers that run the gamut from dreamy and breezy to punchy, a duplicity compounded by the set's understated production. But listen again, and the complexity of the band's sound, their subtle diversity of style, and their excellent musicianship begins to come into sharper focus. Take the opening track, "This Is for You," which starts out as an Elastica-styled staccato song; but then one notices the driving R&B bass riff, the splash of gothic guitar lead, and the chiming guitar that eventually bursts forth in all its glory. -Jo-Anne Greene
Velvet excel at these subtle twists and unexpected turns, transmuting familiar styles and sounds right under your ears. "Girl Fan," for instance, echoes with the lush new romantic atmosphere of the Passions' "I'm in Love With a German Film Star," but intertwines a sharp rhythm and an elegant, big rock guitar solo that turns the song on its head. An even more straightforward number like the Southern rocker "Cracker" embeds some surprises, including a delightful splash of punk and a clapping new wave rhythm. "Monika" goes the opposite direction, dousing a punk rocker with Southern rock elements. Then there's "Bossa Nova Robot," which isn't really a bossa nova, but definitely has a Spanish flair, a decided Southern styling, and an indie rock flavor. "No One Here" is pinned precisely between two genres, post-punk and new wave, capturing that brief moment in time when the former evolved into the distinctive latter. Velvet can easily pull off these sleights of hand because, although they're a trio (buttressed for this album by a second drummer/percussionist, and a guest singer and electric guitarist), members Jay Manley and Jane Francis are multi- instrumentalists, and continually layer a variety of keyboards, guitars and percussion into the stylistic mix. The moods shift from the bright-as-a-summer-day "Winner" across the moody title track, which doubles as a flawless showcase for Francis' exquisite vocals, and the emotive "Something My Brother Said," which does the same for Manley. Lyrically too, the trio have moved to another level, and although thwarted romances still remain in their repertoire, now the band also tackle more controversial subjects. The result is quite extraordinary, a fabulous album that demands multiple plays.
Velvet - The Juggernaut by
Southern-fried guitar power pop.
by Chad Grischow
September 22, 2006 - North Carolina based trio, Velvet sure sound bigger than their diminutive three-member size. Comprised of a husband and wife songwriting team, Jay Manley and Jane Francis, and drummer, Zsolt David, Velvet serves southern-fried guitar driven pop that has traces of The Pretenders and The Replacements coursing through its veins. Francis and Manley might not be in the same class as Hynde and Westerberg yet, but they do not sound removed on much of their sophomore release, The Juggernaut.
Sharing both songwriting and vocal duties, Francis and Manley are the heart and soul of Velvet. Opening with the very Pretenders-esque "This Is For You", Francis makes her presence felt with both her heavy bass line and irresistible melodic "And honey, it's only funny to you" hook. Not to be outdone, Manley's Westerberg style vocals on "Winner" finds Velvet nearly doing an all-out Replacements impression on the ragged rocker, until the dream-pop "Nothing is real" hook floats in. Despite Velvet's affinity for classic rockers, they maintain a sound uniquely their own throughout the album; never sounding like a cover band.
Bluesy noir guitar and Francis' tender vocals roll over a steady beat on "Juggernaut"; as the gorgeous harmonized "And you need it to be good enough / So they'll she her remove her punishment / And believe me experience is not enough / While faking the muse for the juggernaut" hook gently pulls you in. Even the songs that do not stand out with killer pop sensibilities found on the first several, like the chugging "Summer Interstate" and stomping "New Day Witch", keep listeners engaged throughout. Even at their worst, Velvet is anything but boring.
Country dipped guitar make "Cracker" an alt-country charmer Francis cheerfully rambles through with reckless abandon. The sweetly swaying "Marry That Girl" is a rock ballad, with Manley musing about returning from overseas with intentions on marrying his sweetheart. As on most of Juggernaut, the harmonies with Francis and Manley make "Girl" quite the charmer. Poppy guitar rock, with a heavy emphasis on 'rock', "No One Here" is a brilliant duet that has Manley handling the verses and Francis handling the sweet hook. Opening with chugging guitars reminiscent of The Cars' heyday, the song eventually evolves into a more pop version of Sonic Youth, with Manley showing up late to steal some of the spotlight from the striking pop melodies with stellar guitar work.
The Juggernaut is a solid album that will please fans of both The Pretenders and The Replacements equally, while sounding different enough for Velvet to mark their own territory. Guitar heavy pop this good is not easy, even if Velvet makes it look that way.
1. "No One Here"
2. "This Is For You
4. "Marry That Girl
by Power Pop With A Velvet Touch Chapel Hill’s Velvet At Black Cat Burrito
The Chapel Hill-based band Velvet returns to the Black Cat Burrito in Boone on Friday, August 25th in support of the band’s great new album The Juggernaut.
By Jeff Eason During the past two decades, a large number of serious American musicians have abandoned the pop format and left its carcass to be plucked by the Britneys, Jessicas and Mariahs of the world. That’s too bad because there are still a lot of listeners who like well-crafted songs, meaningful lyrics, catchy choruses and the occasional soaring vocal harmony part. The new Chapel Hill-based band Velvet is single-handedly trying to revive the thinking person’s pop genre with clever songs, unique arrangements and well-played instruments. Velvet’s new album, The Juggernaut, is probably the best pop album to come out of North Carolina since the heyday of Let’s Active, the dB’s and Don Dixon’s band Arrogance. Velvet will perform at Black Cat Burrito in Boone on Friday, August 25th starting at 10 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. One of the things that gives The Juggernaut such a classic pop vibe is the fact that most of the recording was done at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium in Kernersville on the same analog equipment used to record the Let’s Active recordings of the 1980s. The original recordings were made during 2003 but have just been finalized after a painstaking mixing process the end result of which is pure pop magic. Velvet includes the slightly-older-than-graduate-student trio of Jay Manley, Jane Francis and Kevin Campbell. For The Juggernaut, the trio utilized the percussion skills of Doug Edmunds and Zsolt David. Francis and Manley serve as the group’s songwriters—two topnotch ones at that. Francis’ song “Juggernaut” is one of those achingly beautiful pop ballads with a tunefulness that belies its slightly warped lyrical message. Francis’ voice is another weapon in the band’s arsenal that “tricks” the listener into thinking he or she is hearing a light love song when the lyrics are generally about more interesting aspects of modern life. She’s got a certain “Karen Carpenter” tone (in this case that’s a good thing) that perfectly conveys strength, longing and frailty all at the same time. “I love Aimee Mann and Chrissy Hynde,” said Francis. “But before I listened to them, I listened to Ronnie Spector and Karen Carpenter. I have all the old Carpenter singles on vinyl. Her voice on some of those song just makes me cry.” The cohesiveness of the Velvet product is the result of Francis and Manley having worked together for the past decade. The two originally met in Wilmington, North Carolina in the mid-80s. Ten years and a few bands later, they bumped into each other and decided to try to form a new musical combo. Originally, Velvet was Manley’s vision of what jazz fusion and alternative rock would sound like as played by a 60s power trio such as Cream. Today, a vast array of influences can be heard in Velvet’s music, even if the outcome is totally original. Despite the marvelous female vocals, “Girl Fan” could easily be an early David Bowie composition while “This Is For You” drips with the punchy power pop patented by the Pretenders. The Juggernaut is Velvet’s second album with Where Are The People? serving as the band’s full-length debut. The band has also contributed a cover version of the song “Bad Machinery” to the Let’s Active tribute album Every Dog Has Its Day. Additionally, singer and songwriter Jane Francis has a solo album called Skeletons For Tea. The Juggernaut had its release earlier this month and so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “It’s been very encouraging,” said Francis. “The album was picked up by XM Radio and we’ve got feature stories and reviews coming out in the music magazines Harp and Magnet.” In conclusion, Velvet’s The Juggernaut is the best pop album to cross this reviewer’s desk since King Radio’s 2003 disc Are You The Sick Passenger. Highly recommended for fans of 80s underground pop or new bands such as New Pornographers.