Feb 2, 2015

Album Review: American Aquarium - Wolves

by Kelcy Salisbury

American Aquarium is a band that's been building tremendous buzz off the strength of their relentless touring and their album Burn, Flicker, Die for the past couple of years. We've all heard the story ad infinitum about how that album was supposed to be their goodbye. It was the end. Its success seemed like the beginning of a fairy tale ending, a Behind The Music episode in reverse.

So let's skip that part of the story & talk about the new album, Wolves.

I never do track by track reviews, but this deserves one. Problem is then I'd have to pick a favorite & I can't do it. I doubt I ever will.

This is as perfect of a country-fried, southern rock album as I can imagine hearing in the present time.

To say the musical arrangements are daring & a departure from past albums is true. Yes, the same basic structure is there, the skeleton is intact enough to keep the loyal fans sated. But BJ Barham & the boys take risks here. The lush "Man I'm Supposed To Be" could be something Chet Atkins produced, but the darkness that lurks in this most honest of love songs somehow makes the song even more powerful.

The opener, "Family Problems," strays into psychedelic, Turtles-esque territory in places & again the song is more powerful for it.

"Losing Side of Twenty-five" contains a riff that will lodge itself into your brain and likely be stuck there for the remainder of 2015. It doesn't hurt that the song is damn good too, giving an autobiographical account of the life of a late-20's guy who chose the road life over settling down. "I might never have a mansion, hell I might never own me a home…" sings Barham, laying bare the realities of the path he's chosen.

I never would call American Aquarium a straight ahead country band in the vein of those modern bands who are simply aping tradition. They have become one of the bands who've taken country music in the direction it needs to go & that's why I think that this album & this year are the most important of their careers. Based on what I know about their history, the incredible growth from strong album to utterly breathtaking album, and the tides seeming to be slowly turning in Nashville, I believe that this is one of the bands that is going to be the crest on the wave that rejuvenates true country music - with a truly modern touch - for the masses.

If you want to see them with the other band I've given similar accolades (a bit over a year ago I believe), catch one of their dates with Turnpike Troubadours. Truly the two best younger bands in any genre right now.

American Aquarium has been extremely generous in their willingness to make their music available to stream for free for years now. Now is the time to pay them back. Wolves is an album to buy. Seriously, it's as good as anything I've heard in 6 months at least. Probably much longer.

If you've agreed with my recommendations in the past, you know what to do. If not, I may have been out of sync with your tastes before, but this album is different enough from their past work that you should give it a try anyway.

You can buy Wolves tomorrow (Feb. 3, 2015) from iTunes, Lone Star Music, and all the usual retailers.

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