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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Aerogramme
My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go
Sonic Unyon

Rating: 7.9/10 ?


April 27, 2007
Aerogramme are one of those bands that anyone with any inside angle on the music industry can't help but feel sorry for. They write solid songs that are better than most, they tour regularly, they associate with all the "right" (read: hip) people, and have a sturdy discography scattered about a handful of respectable labels. Yet while bands like the Hold Steady march vicariously forth on behalf of every weekend bar band with doused aspirations of scoring a Bud Light endorsement, the Scottish quartet have been relegated to the ground floor of indie rock's pantheon; most educated music fans know the name, but few really know the band. I had a chance to see them live a few years back, on an unremarkable Sunday afternoon in Chicago, and the experience was similar - although they took home all the proceeds from the door, the venue virtually emptied after a local band finished up their support slot, leaving a couple of bar tenders, a sound guy and a few stragglers for Aerogramme's set.

Why the band hasn't been able to really stick (they have releases spread across five labels, including their own) in spite of steady album sales and regular stints supporting higher profile acts is best explained by their music, which has until now been, simply put, too big. The band has built their house atop a wall of sound, employing the swelling guitars and weighted percussion that has brought everyone from Japan's Mono to Canada's Godspeed You! Black Emperor together on the podcasts of a million academic metalheads, but the wall was so massive that any details, any place to grab on to, were few and far between. While Aerogramme have employed dynamics as frequently as anyone, their tonal shifts have often been misplaced, often drawing the focus away from the infrequent moments of subtlety and casting an even brighter light on the loud parts. Basically, they could be a little overbearing.

This time around Craig B. and company, fresh off their Isis collaboration for Konkurrent's revered In the Fishtank series (see, they really do hang out with the right people), have whipped a U-turn and headed in the opposite direction. Whereas their back catalog centered on decidedly un-rogue waves of distortion, My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go is a collection of quiet, often surreal songs that border on balladry (in fact the closer, "You're Always Welcome," could hardly be described as anything but).

Unlike the greeting of "Inkwell" from their last effort, Seclusion, "Conscious Life For Coma Boy" slides out of the gate somewhat unremarkably, its initial seconds of searing guitar a decoy for the calm noodling to follow. It is always advisable to have something of consequence to say about an album's opener, but even though the second cut "Barriers" has a violin solo, My Heart Has A Wish doesn't really dig in until the third track, "Exits," with its infectious vocals, sweeping guitar, and step-down piano loop. The album's strongest track, "Exits" could never be picked out of a lineup by anyone looking for Aerogramme, and that is what is thoroughly weird about this record; that it works when it is more Sigur Rós than Mogwai. Later the band hit a stronger stride with "Nightmares," its plodding, string-y synth lines delivering the kind of aural topography that, although My Heart Has A Wish is more cleanly produced than anything before it, was generally absent in the crush of Seclusion or A Story In White. Similarly awkward rhythms are continued into "The Running Man," where they are superceded at intervals with twinkly, almost new wave-y keyboards. The track's core elements are in stark contrast with each other, but the tune works remarkably well.

Aside from the obvious and primary shift in the album's overall sound, the most substantial difference between My Heart Has A Wish and its predecessors is the change in Craig B.'s vocal timbre. In lieu of the screams that punctuated the band's earlier work, the vocals here are crisp and discernable. For the most part the clarity is welcome, at least within the structure of Aerogramme's new approach, but be forewarned that the lyrical content is often overly sappy, with lines like "my head is caving in/ only love can save me now" (repeated through "Nightmares") rivaling the sogginess of the album's ghastly title.

With almost a decade behind them and the prospects of concert hall and theater tours as likely now as they were back in 1998, it is hard to say how much Aerogramme has left in them. Had My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go been another chapter in the story they'd been writing for so long, I might have counted them out. But perhaps the band are as coolly determined as their guitars sound in "Living Backwards," and if they can find a way to integrate the urgency of their old sound with the delicacy of their new angle they could be, uhm, like the new Snow Patrol or something.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth

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