EP review by KevW
Dan Shears would like to make it clear that he is a songwriter who sings, not a singer/songwriter. A touch pedantic? Maybe, but you know what he means. The term "singer/songwriter" screams of boring acoustic musings to be lapped up by gap-year students (hello there Ben Howard) and the music made by Dan Shears & The Velveteen Orkesta doesn't fit this category at all. Firstly, as the name suggests, these songs are lushly ordained with mighty orchestral arrangements and the songs are pained and passionate, often recalling The Bends-era Radiohead or Jeff Buckley, not David Gray and Damien Rice. Shears' voice is a powerful instrument in itself, often soaring to great heights to achieve the power needed. 'Against A Sea Of Troubles' feels like quite an achievement; it's easy to over-egg the pudding when applying strings and wind instruments to your songs, but where subtlety is needed it's used and where a full-scale crescendo is the order of the day it's served up perfectly.
Lead track 'In The Shadows Of Better Men' is an ornate and sweeping piece of cinematic pop, each part carefully considered and carried out with seemingly effortless composure. That great voice at one point begins to crack with the passion and soul with which it's belted out. Musically were dealing with a film score interbred with a pop song. A contemporary comparison may be The Last Shadow Puppets although this is less mainstream, Calexico duetting with Scott Walker may be another reasonably close fit. On 'The Devil's Favourite Love Story' we're treated to contemporary pop by way of Latin doo-wop, something we didn't realise existed until now, and maybe it didn't. The brass section is allowed to take control of the atmospherics on the simmering 'Petrushka' which is so spaciously crafted you can almost hear it breathing. It's the perfect background upon which to plant those emotion-filled vocals. There's a clear talent at work here and we're not betting against some more inspired music to come from these guys.
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