I have the pleasure today of reviewing two of the finest longplayers of 2014.
Aerial, Why Don’t The Teach Heartbreak At School: Aerial is a three-piece band from Scotland that produces authentic West Coast Pop of great variety, stunning quality, occasional clever wit and consistently gorgeous harmonies. Although the band last released an album in 2002, the long delay has hardly diminished its skills.
The festivities begin with “Cartoon Eyes, Cartoon Heart,” which adds a bit of fuzz to the basic pounding pop approach. The title track is a sing-along, clap-along, bop-along slice of teenage heartbreak and regret. “Japanese Dancer” inserts some call-and-response into a paean to the girl of the title who dances on the street clad in kung fu slippers while brandishing a plastic whistle. “Great Teenager” imagines how great teenage life could really and truly be — if the teenager was actually in his late-20s.
Those are each rockin’ pop songs. Aerial, however, also delivers the goods rather nicely on the more introspective tracks.
“Dear Anna” amps up the harmonizing alongside its basic plea seeking a second chance to explain. “Where Are You” slowly builds tension for a minute-and-a-half before becoming a full-fledged rocker, and back again. The collection closes with “Wave Goodbye To Scotland,” a relatively quiet track about how the love for a person can trump the love for a place.
Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School is a shoo-in for my year-end “best of” list. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a long and otherwise boring commute to and from work. Buy it from Kool Kat Musik — right here — and also get a previously unreleased CD of 4 demo tracks.
Check out the band doing an acoustic version of the title track right here:
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Edward, O’Connell, Vanishing Act: O’Connell creates smart, unaffected guitar-based rock that sounds instantly familiar upon its initial listen. His recently released long-player, Vanishing Act, has a timeless quality to it, as it if could have been released in 1969, 1979, 1989 — well, you get the point. Although nothing on Vanishing Act advances the march of western civilization, O’Connell nevertheless delivers twelve expertly crafted pop tunes that make perfect use of the occasional string, keyboard, horn or pedal steel to add texture and a full, rich sound to the basic guitar-bass-drums approach.
The opening track, the country-tinged “My Dumb Luck,” sets the tone for everything that follows — O’Connell’s strong lead vocals alternating with plush harmonies amid a hook that will stay with you for hours. “Every Precious Day” took me back to the days of driving around college in a 1981 Honda listening to the local alternative rock station, a very good thing indeed:
“I’m The Man” ups the country quotient considerably and, in the grand tradition of a certain branch of that particular genre, repeats its basic hook –“I’m the man that she wants to kill” — several times. The swaying title track has a slightly baroque feel, and features the backing vocals of Parthenon Huxley. Quite naturally, the collection ends with the slightly jangling rocker, “The End Of The Line,” whose pumping, sunny disposition will make your forget, or not even notice, its bleak theme and inherent sadness. It attests wonderfully to O’Connell’s songwriting chops.
Vanishing Act displays O’Connell at the top of his craft. It contains not a single bum track, and its twelve songs ultimately go by in a blink of an eye. It should be available wherever finer music is sold.