Venice Is Sinking

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AZAR Review

by William Ruhlmann

The press release announcing the appearance of Venice Is Sinking's second album, AZAR, describes the band's eight-month recording process, which found it continually driving from its base in Athens, GA, to the recording studio of producer Scott Solter in Charlotte, NC, "traveling the horrific I-85 corridor." Maybe all those car trips help explain the performances on the album, which find the band (consisting, at the sessions, of singer/guitarist Daniel Lawson, singer/violist Karolyn Troupe, keyboardist James Sewell, bassist Stephen Miller, and drummer Lucas Jensen, though Miller has since been replaced by Jeremy Sellers) singing and playing as though exhausted most of the time. "Dream pop" is a style sometimes used to describe Venice Is Sinking's music, but that may be because "tired pop," a more accurate term, seems too pejorative. To be sure, the band does work up a head of steam now and then, for instance treating "Okay" as a medium-tempo pop/rocker and suddenly switching to a faster pace halfway through "Sun Belt." But for the most part, the singers and players sound like it's all they can do to get through the tracks without collapsing. The actual songs are interspersed with four spacy instrumentals ("Azar One" through "Azar Four"), which contributes to the ambient feel of the disc. Troupe's viola and guest Colin Jones' trumpet give the arrangements an orchestral tone, filling them out and sweetening them, and Lawson and Troupe's harmony singing adds to the pop appeal. But this is not a band that wants to do any more than suggest a distant pop sound; the songs' lyrics, mostly by Lawson, are introspective to the point of being inscrutable. "Control of what you make when everything is vague," Lawson sings in "Okay," which seems as good a way of conveying his approach to penning words as any. On their second album, then, Venice Is Sinking seem primarily concerned with setting and maintaining a crepuscular feel, and in that they succeed. Hopefully, the bandmembers managed to get some much-needed sleep after they finished this record.

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