Don’t be fooled by the toasty melodies that fill the air during parts of Velorio, the debut full-length from local anti-folk outfit Teething Veils. This is not a playful album. Velorio’s 21 tracks move slowly, pulled downward by the weight of their melancholy. With stark and vivid detail, Teething Veils’ frontman Greg Svitil sings about staring at wounds as they slowly close and morphing into a bitter man, giving Velorio its heft—about 10,000 pounds of it.
Velorio is a challenge, yes, but not a chore; Svitil and his conspirators perform the rustic, low-fidelity, and low-key tunes with a conviction that preserves a soft glow of intimacy. Svitil collaborated with more than a dozen people on Velorio, but most of it sounds like he recorded each part alone in his bedroom, accompanied by just a candle and the faint glow of a computer screen. His singing voice sounds a lot like talking, and it tends to manifest in gentle whispers or groggy sighs, like the sounds of a tearstained boozehound emerging from the fog of an unplanned nap.
The record’s disarming openness lends Velorio the rawness of journal entries, so much that songs can come across as unfinished sketches. The record feels scattered, but Teething Veils stitches the songs together with a shambolic sound that melds home-recorded warmth with dabs of studio polish. (Somehow, the band pulls off cheesy organ sounds and weeping strings.) The sprightly and sweet “Pre-Dawn Rain” fades away for a moment only to spring back with a section of disjointed, swirling ivories, and the piercing tale of romance in the twilight hours that marks an acoustic number called “The Voice Inside Your Pillow” could go on a lot longer than its 45-second run-time.
Velorio may be glum, but Teething Veils’ tears come in a couple of different flavors; on the almost-anthem “You Write On My Face” the band harnesses delicate cycling guitar patterns, a sparse post-punk stomp, and uncomplicated synth melodies that might sound familiar to fans of Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan. On “Ossifier,” Teething Veils dabbles in black metal, dunking guitars in washed-out reverb and setting the stage for some shocking shrieks that sharply contrast with the rest of the album. There are moments of peace, even joy, in these 21 songs, like in the weezing accordion melody on the jaunty “We Walked Through Leicester Square.” Teething Veils knows its way around a funeral procession, but the band can still make misery sound lovely.
Teething Veils play Friday at 9 p.m. at Restaurant Judy, 2212 14th St. NW.