Josh Staples might seem like a detractor of his former fold, Santa Rosa's the Velvet Teen. Since he left the increasingly pop-oriented band, his subsequent delve into gloomier material seems like a complete disassociation from their artistic direction. But when the time came for him to split, to focus full-time on his venerable side project the New Trust, Staples stumbled upon a songwriting fire previously masked during his tenure under the watchful wave of Velvet Teen singer Judah Nagler's baton.
The band's latest full-length, Get Vulnerable, was self-released—and the decision to go fully DIY was answered musically by a wholly vibrant gloom. The overriding theme seems to be of deep confessions, the need to feel vulnerable exemplified by richly dark analogies of howling wolves, adultery, self-consciousness, dishonesty, and greed. Heavy melodies split into dicey cadences, fluttering under Staples' patented, magnetic vibrato, and punctuated by distorted bass strums, while minor-chord and octave-chopped ruminations via guitarist (and Staples' wife) Sara Sanger and the flailing, steady snaps of Julia Lancer's syncopated drumming add a new depth to their menagerie of sound.
There's an urgency etched into the very tone that disavows any easy connection to the group's previous efforts, and makes songs like "The Suffering of Fools" eerily heavy, something this band was definitely not known for prior to this release. Other tracks suffer in turn, reeling like worms on the end of a lure, writhing like sassy toddlers in unobserved playpens, but it all breathes "real life" just the same. Take "Make Me Deaf," a not-so-stunted jab at the ineffectual paths that formerly integral underground bands have taken with their ascensions into super mega-stardom ("What will you sing about?/Now the world is listening") as proof positive the band has turned a new and vengeful corner.
To top it off, the band has emerged as much more impressive in the live setting, having pared down to a three-piece in recent years, yielding a more intimate weapon with which to barrage their fanbase. We welcome this shift with open ears