Life Span of the Moth (Secret Decoder Records)
A journalist and web developer by trade, local singer-songwriter Justin Vellucci has been writing about music for magazines and online publications for years, and he's also worked as a reporter for daily newspapers The Asbury Park Press and The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. But while his news articles show a writer well-versed in journalistic formulas, his songcraft is anything but ordinary.
Life Span of the Moth, his 10th solo album, is by far the weirdest local release I've heard all year. Calling to mind The Residents and early Sebadoh, Vellucci's songs are slow, meditative and full of radical contrasts. In “Silences (Complicit),” he sets a harsh, hideously metallic drum sound against glimmering acoustic guitar and what sounds like cello or stand-up bass, making for a difficult yet enthralling listen. Opener “Crawling Toward Jerusalem” fills out a bugs-crawling-under-yourskin vibe with fragile female vocal harmonies set over Vellucci's hushed, half-sung vocals.
Vellucci has a gift for writing lyrics that are vivid and full of metaphor. He sometimes comes across as a tortured poet, too serious for his own good. But he can also be wickedly clever, as in “WWHLD? (What Would Harry Lime Do?),” when he ponders whether he'd committed an actual murder or just a figurative one. Even more darkly comic is “Another Drop of Blood in the Piranha Pool,” in which he mixes what resembles the chords to “Wipe Out” over a burst of droning guitar feedback.
At 52 minutes, Life Span can be a lot to take in. An avowed fan of weird music, even I found my interest flagging toward the end. But it's totally worthwhile: In the strangest kind of way, Vellucci's music is utterly unique.
Justin Vellucci will celebrate the album's release at Soda Bar at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27.