Lush sounds from Athens

Venice is Sinking plays the Bean

Venice is Sinking plays music confident in its own gorgeousness. The music's built around the interplay between backing vocalist Karolyn Troupe's coo and swooning viola melodies and with frontman and guitarist Daniel Lawson's breezy voice. Three years in the making, the sophomore album AZAR from the Athens band is lush, lush, lush, full to the brim and packed to the corners with the cinematic sweep of refined, orchestral pop that has characterized the band for the past five years.

But this album's more nuanced than the band's 2006 debut album Sorry About the Flowers, and sure sounds terrific on headphones, recorded in full stereo effect. (The band credits North Carolina producer Scott Solter's meticulous input for that.)

"We really hadn't been a band for very long when we went into the studio and started recording our first album. In hindsight, we probably should have waited a little bit longer before going into the studio to make that record. Several of the songs that made it onto Sorry About the Flowers were songs that I had written before we'd even met each other," says guitarist/singer Lawson.

Lawson apparently relinquished a lot of his former control and let the songwriting be more of a collective thing, and the tracks on AZAR reflect this more democratic approach -- or at least it makes sense, when held up against Sorry About the Flowers. "By the time we made AZAR, that sense of ownership started to disappear and everything just naturally became more democratic. I can remember one practice in particular where [drummer] Lucas [Jensen], Karolyn and I came up with two or three of the songs that made it onto AZAR in one night," he says. "There was just a lot more interaction between everybody throughout the songwriting process and i think we made a much better record as a result of that collaboration."

Keyboard and horn player James Sewell came up with the album's theme melody, a track that repeats itself several times throughout AZAR's running time. "I think it's really changed the sound of the band for the better," says Jensen, "because we push each other into places that we might not have gone."

Venice is Sinking still does pretty and wistful and melancholy ("Young Master Sunshine," "Charm City"), but they do driving and emphatic and forceful too ("Sun Belt") or peppy and rocking ("Okay").

Though AZAR took Venice is Sinking three years to complete, the band's up and at 'em, no longer taking things slow. There's already a new album recorded live by producer David Barbe ready for a fall release. It was put to tape in May of '08 at Athens' famed Georgia Theatre, which burned last month; proceeds from the sale of the album will go to benefit the rebuilding of the music scene's landmark..

Venice is Sinking

When: Saturday, July 18, 8 p.m.

Where: Sentient Bean

Cost: Donations accepted


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