Exclaim! – Album Review – “Amateur Hour”

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Chris Velan began writing Amateur Hour as a way to explore the complicated emotions that go into (and come out of) relationships. What he ended up with is an album that comes across as more personal and more self-reflective than the typical breakup record. This is Velan’s seventh album, and it was recorded over a Montreal winter in his own studio, adding to the sense of intimacy that flows from the release.

One of the first elements to stand out on Amateur Hour is how vocal-forward the mixing is. Even when the instrumentation is lush or heavy, the score often pulls back and the vocals take the lead. Many of the tracks tell stories —”Everything I Have Is Stolen” and “Black Eye” are prime examples — though there are moments when the music is striking enough that it could carry the track, if only given the opportunity.

Velan mines sadness and love for all angles and perspectives. Between the description of chasing the disastrous idea of a person on “You Can Talk” to the radio phone-in apology of “Night Caller” (a track that stands out for its use of synths and an electronic beat), this album is sure to strike a nerve with anyone who has ever been lost in complicated emotions.

Amateur Hour gleams with thoughtful and crisp writing and explorative musical shifts, though occasionally the compositions feel held back by the spotlighting of the vocals. (Independent)


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