On their debut effort Orleans, Quebec City natives Velvet Black find the right balance between sexy and soul to create a pop record that is as sombre as it is smooth. Each song bursts with a unique personality while still adding to the overall tone of the album.
The bounce of the opening track “#CANTLIVE” is undeniable and the strong vocals carry it through its giant hook; think Hozier meets The Black Keys. The chromatic piano lick makes the dance-ballad “Nothing but Love” all the more urgent. Picture a dimly-lit speakeasy covered in purple things and filled with smoke, this song could be floating out of a gramophone in the back corner. “The Losing Hand” is a pretty little Latin number that probably gets these guys laid a lot. “The Wait” is a modern western tune that oozes with Clint Eastwood’s swagger.
What is really cool about this record is that even though it plays heavy on danceable rhythms and sex appeal, it is still a collection of songs that appeal to music nerds just because of the way the songs are put together. The melodies are crafted to move through the intricate chord work and create soaring harmonies, and each one evolves like a story that reveals something new upon each listen. The only track that really doesn’t seem to fit the vibe here is “Hey Nanana.” This one is just a little too close to The Black Keys’ sound, where the reason the rest of the record triumphs is that it boldly pushes forward with its own identity. It is catchy enough, but it is not particularly memorable and as Orleans is already on the long side, this song probably could have been excluded without too many eyelashes being batted.
The other thing that may throw off a few ears is singer Matt’s strong French accent. While for the most part it is not all that noticeable, there are a few moments where maybe singing in French would have been beneficial to the song.
These are minor criticisms though and easily overlooked, when taken into consideration how widely-appealing, well-crafted, and downright catchy this record is.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy