Sleeping in the Aviary begin Great Vacation! with a sparse, plodding guitar line that builds into the skeletal indie-folk of “Y.M.C.A. (No, Not That One)”. Instead of starting with a rocker, this sets a tone that showcases their many elements: quirky poppiness, lyrics that border between absurd and genuine, and a penchant for the big, memorable refrain. The record plays with a sort of rising action and it’s not until the third song, “You Don’t Have to Drive,” that the band actually hits at anything upbeat and they quickly up the ante with the Hawaiian-styled “Maria’s Ghost,” which adds ukulele and horns—giving a hokey instrumentation that the band delivers matter-of-factly— without winking at their cleverness, but by letting the song’s structure speak for itself. The lyrics are playful and singalong, but they also have a dark and twisted imagery akin to a creepy Tim Burton world.
“Blacked-Out Fun” mixes surf guitar lines with distorted keys and a chorus of “ba ba ba’s” and album highlight, “The Very Next Day I Died” has a classic big pop singalong that is countered by its dark subject matter. Here, Elliott Kozel starts with a minimal guitar and his voice lamenting a number of seemingly everyday occurrences, followed with a choral “and the very next day I died.” It brings a tempered melodrama that works largely through the slow crescendo that incorporates additional sounds and instruments until, at its peak, it discusses life’s banalities to a folksy rhythm complemented by, of all things, cartoony boing sound effects. The upbeat songs establish a tone that is seemingly playful, but with an underlying grimness. While it feels like the band would like to laugh at life’s foibles, it’s as though they just can’t hide the macabre inclinations that are just beneath the surface.
Meanwhile, they take the time to mix up their tempos. In between the foot-tappers, come songs like “Nothing,” with minimal music, eerie keys, and haunting lyrics that aptly cover the lows as well as the highs. While the slower songs carry a more somber tone, they don’t drag down the record’s enjoyability but, instead, provide pacing to the album while showcasing a bit of musical range and giving a greater sense of seriousness that would be lacking. Whimsical, yet based in just enough reality, Sleeping in the Aviary fall into a class of folksy indie-pop that should attract fans of Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Mountain Goats.
7.0 / 10
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