The Velvet Teen

Out of the Fierce Parade

Indie rock is a notoriously prickly pear. The style's supposed to be powerful and emotionally evocative, yet understated and raw; oftentimes, it's supposed to sound like an accident, as if the musician just happened to stumble across beauty. Should things sound a little too polished or too sweet, the indie rock cognoscenti typically turn their noses up -- which in the case of the Velvet Teen's debut, Out of the Fierce Parade, would be a rash mistake.

A trio from Santa Rosa that's been playing for nearly two years, the Velvet Teen has thus far flown below the local radar. But by enlisting the help of producer Chris Walla (guitarist for Death Cab for Cutie), the musicians have crafted a grandiose collection of heartbreaking tunes that will raise more than a few blips.

The album's opener, "A Special Gift to You," swings through a melancholy pop arrangement -- plaintive verse, weary bridge, triumphant chorus -- that would make England's Coldplay shiver in its knickers. "Radiapath," a crunchy, guitar-driven pop number, recalls Blur's "Song 2" with its quick slap and infectious chorus. Throughout the record, vocalist Judah Nagler melts the styles of Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley into his own gut-wrenching wail. When he sings, "I struggle so hard for each breath that I take," on "Penning the Penultimate," he sounds like he really means it.


The Velvet Teen and the Thermals open for Death Cab for Cutie

Friday, March 7, at 9 p.m.

Tickets are sold out


Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F.

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It's likely that some people will hate this record. Somewhere around the fifth listen, Out of the Fierce Parade begins to sound a little too smooth -- the choruses too catchy and the harmonies too perfect. If you like your indie rock full of cracked voices and unpolished riffs, look elsewhere. But if you're the kind of person who's a sucker for a well-executed blockbuster movie, this record should suit you just right. And to all the snobs out there: Face it -- below the radar can be a nice place to be, but soaring above the clouds is pretty sweet too.

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