Monday, 15 December 2008

Chad Vaangalen - Soft Airplane

Using the immortal words of Larry David, Chad Vangaalen’s third record “Soft Airplane” is ‘pretty good….pretty, pretty, good”. While you can hear echoes of Neil Young in the vocal delivery (particularly on “Cries of the Dead”), Chad is not simply the sum of his influences, contributing something truly worthwhile to the musical tapestry of the new century. And why? Well, the songs are all quite good.

Chad is a Canadian musician from Calgary, apparently known for his basement-recorded releases of songs compiled over the many years. I read that “Soft Airplane” differs production wise generally steering clear of the lo-fi nature of his previous work, opting for crisper more ‘serious’ production using computer recording software rather than older four-track recording devices.

The record kicks off with single ‘Willow Tree’, are brooding and morose affair, with banjo-esque melodies mixing well with lyrics that feature Arthurian inspired burial rites which include setting the subjects body on fire and pushing out to sea. These grim themes are often repeated throughout the duration of the album.

“Inside the Molecules” is probably my favourite tune off the record, with its reverbed low fidelity guitar sound over a steady beat. I really love the chord progression during the middle of the song in what you could probably call the chorus. The part where Chad sings “Heeeyyyy, my eyes aren’t working right now, but I’m going to see my baby any day” to be specific. The song is rough, bluesy and extremely interesting.

I really do enjoy listening to this album. Why? Well, in the end, what makes “Soft Airplane” good is its dynamism. It has something for everyone. You want a rock song? Listen to “Bare Feet on the Wet Griptape”. Murder ballad? Check out “Molten Light”, Perhaps you’re after an electronic song about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with a harmonica solo? Well “TMNT Mask” should do the trick.

There are a few songs that probably don’t measure up to the quality of the many of the others. For instance, “Old Man + The Sea” sounds just a bit too, well, engineered. Too much seems to be happening in this song and the message becomes slightly muddled. It is not that it is truly awful, but stands out like a bit of sore thumb in comparison to the quality of the songs that sit adjacent to it on the track listing (feel free to disagree with me though).

Overall, three thumbs up.

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