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The Velveteins: Declarations of the 3am Freeway
We’ve heard a few audio nuggets from local indie-rockers The Velveteins since the band’s 2017 debt album, Slow Wave, but core members Spencer Morphy and Addison Hiller were busy in the interim. They left their Canadian label and have been managing to eke out songs, often crafted in bedrooms and recorded and re-recorded to form the basis of this dazzling sophomore album.
Released in the dying days of summer, Declarations of the 3am Freeway is a stunning evolution of the Velveteins’ sound. Jangly guitar riffs marked earlier recordings, said to be inspired by Morphy’s time spent in Australia soaking up the country’s sun-drenched beaches and psychedelic music, but now the band has opened up its sound to include more textures, rife with effervescent synths and saturnine vocals.
Much of the album is based on the shared experiences of the band’s road tours. The album kicks off with the title track, laying out the transit theme in the lyrics: “It all begins right now / it all begins in the car on the freeway.” Keyboards cushion the vocals, underpinned by a creaky drum loop repeating like well-worn tires rolling on pavement. The song hits a crescendo of crashing guitars and multi-tracked vocals chanting about “Running out of time.”
Athene is a jaunty pop-rock song with a propelling bass line that calls to mind the Killers’ many odes to Bruce Springsteen. Guitars are cranked out through a multitude of effects, crafting fascinating, yearning musical textures. Morphy’s lyrics were inspired by Homer’s Iliad, spinning a tale about a woman similar to the legendary goddess. The song details a relationship in which the singer falls in love and goes along for the journey: “Live like this, live how you wanna.”
Album single Strange Medicine captures that hazy feeling of being in the middle of an emotional cyclone. The music conjures a feeling of ennui through heavy reverb and swirling keyboards. The lyrics touch on strange medicine burning the singer’s eyes while also being torn between a desire to take a break or walk for miles.
Morphy and Hiller are joined on the album by Dean Kheroufi and Daniel Sedmak who lend their talents on bass and keys while Stew Crookes offers up the pedalsteel on Let It Pass. Phenomenal production work from Graham Lessard and Colin Stewart elevates the album’s songs to lofty levels.
Declarations of the 3am Freeway is a concise, emotional journey that fully displays the band’s maturity into high-calibre songwriters. Expect this one to linger on your playlists for months.