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where are the people?
Velvet
Where Are The People?
Eskimo Kiss

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Velvet's sunny, campy songwriting skills are shown off in Where Are the People? to the best advantage. Similar in style to Matthew Sweet and Jason Falkner, Velvet makes power pop with a faux-schmaltz feel -- it would be kitsch, but they seem to be deliberately mocking themselves. However, with the addition of vocalist Jane Francis, Jay Manley's -- and Velvet's -- repertoire grows far beyond the abilities of their more popular peers.

Manley used to write math rock, and you can still hear that influence in the orderly progression of the songs and their structure -- particularly "Sorry". While some people find this type of songwriting deplorable for its lack of emotion, I think those listeners have simply stopped thinking of humour as an emotion. None of these songs will rouse you to a belly laugh, but you'll be smiling the whole way through -- when you listen to "Sorry", for example, in which a woman wrecks her boyfriend's brand-new car after he sleeps with his visiting ex-girlfriend (all the while assuring her that she can trust him). Or in "February", in which the narrator sings of his grade-school days and of making a construction-paper valentine for his latest crush. Bouncy guitar chords and jangly tambourines chime along with thin but upbeat vocals from Manley or Francis; harmonizing isn't their strong suit, but they do well solo, with backup and a warm, mellow bass behind them. They do, however, sing a round in "Monday Face", which is funny ("you know you're in trouble if you're wearing a Monday face on Saturday night") and adds to the childish innocence that permeates most of their songs. I have no idea who they write for, honestly; if you remember that phase in the mid-nineties, when everyone was sucking on lollies, wearing pigtails and carrying backpacks made from stuffed animals, then you have an idea of what their music is like. Adult themes dressed up in Powerpuff Girls and Sesame Street t-shirts is the thematic push (although there's also a song devoted to Buddhism, oddly enough). Velvet doesn't need to take nostalgia trips very often; they've carried bits of their childhood into their adult lives.

Where Are the People? is perfect for any late-twenty-something who sometimes still has trouble leaving his frat past behind. It's as warm and fuzzy as the band's name implies.

-- Jenn Sikes
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