After Aura – In The Dark – Album Review
Cool crew of people here in After Aura…one understanding group of individuals I’d assume! I’ve often pointed out just how theoretically impossible it would be for me to be in a band of more than one or two people…anything after that seems like it would just be an incredible headache of trying to coordinate the amount of time needed to actually BE a band, practice, write, record etc. I mean…it’s not like I haven’t talked with several large bands that house many talents and players…I know it’s not a made-up theory – that’s certainly a difficult task to work around. Of course…one might argue that it also just demands the kind of musician that is truly serious about making it happen…you know, to get around the issue of having to chase people down to come to band practice as opposed to just want to be there. One other factor for sure though – is that what if they all DO show up on-time and they’re all ready to play entirely different styles & sounds from the rest of the band? Being a solo-artist is one thing…being a player among many would make things so much more difficult…for some out there.
Then there’s After Aura. Now…I can’t say for sure that they pull their band of six together as quick as a phone call to come to a band practice…can’t say for sure that each player gets everything they need personally and musically from such a large band full of ideas. I can’t say one way or the other with complete certainty…but I really do feel like somehow this band manages to cut through all the red-tape of being in a six-piece ensemble – the music of After Aura sounds inspiringly united. It really does seem like they’ve managed to pull off a multi-dimensional album that really expresses quite a few styles, sounds and textures over the eleven songs they’ve put out on their new album In The Dark…and it all leads me to believe that After Aura must indeed be full of completely cool, patient, kind & understanding people in addition to being fantastic musicians.
What’s more impressive than anything to me…is that these six players were able to mix it up with versatile & vibrant sounds from track to track, yet there were still identifiable elements you can absolutely hear pull these eleven songs together in a cohesive way that makes sense. It might very well be that I’ve just stumbled upon six players that actually have it all together; skills, time, desire, passion and sincerity all playing as one? Is that even a possible thing in today’s world still or am I dreaming?
There are moments where I feel like some of the material is stronger than others on In The Dark – but that’s the case with just about every band or artist you’ll hear yourself…we all have our favorite songs and styles don’t we? With the After Aura ability to roam through a vast amount of terrain, some of these songs might resonate more strongly or connect with you quicker than some others so – but I think you’ll hear what I’m hearing in the sense that the overall sound is actually quite impressively identifiable to them at all times throughout this record. C’mon people…that really deserves the extra shout-out of support and love…it’s so much tougher to do that than you probably might think, let alone attempting it with six people in the mix!
The pop-indie roots of the opening melody on “Make A Change” sound bright and inviting as the album begins…and I think if you listen closely to the lyrics, you’ll hear that this is truly a band of best intentions. The stuttered stop/start chops of the guitar and beat make for a seriously rhythmic groove right away on “Make A Change” – and the vocals in my opinion really bring this entire song together. Love the way they approach the verse, loving the harmonies in the pre-chorus…really loving the bold direction and confidence I can hear in the music overall. Solid pop tendencies sound like they take over the band completely as they absorb themselves right into this melody at the beginning of their record and establish an immediate connection through a passionate performance that makes instant impact on us all as listeners through the truly diverse structure and incredible execution on this first idea we hear.
From indie-pop to a more indie-rock style on “The Western Song” following the opening tune, After Aura makes the switch to a new sound early on in the record. I think it was a good idea to put this song way up in the order of the playlist if only to establish that In The Dark is an album that will continually have you guessing along the way and surprising you with what comes next. Obviously a different vocalist for this second tune…and the songwriting of “The Western Song” definitely brings up the energy of the album quickly. Excellent drums in this cut…powerful & quick hits blaze through the chorus-full of beautifully harmonized lyrics; I think the hooks in a way are a little hidden throughout much of the first two songs on this record, but they’re certainly still in existence. Takes a few listens of this record at the very least in order to get your mind & ears around the full-scope of their ideas and ambitions…but once you’re there, you’re also free to notice the incredible elements like the guitar solos, piano-work and even the COWBELL added to “The Western Song.” I mean c’mon people…we’ve been calling out for ‘more cowbell’ for years and years now…After Aura has no problem filling that niche on this second cut.
Even though I’d been enjoying myself throughout the first two tracks, I also believe this album really started to take flight and soar upwards right around the time of the title-track “In The Dark.” Right around this point in the record, After Aura really starts to shift gears and bring in even more cleverness to the writing, structure and definition to their music. The chorus of “In The Dark” is a seriously wonderful sound to hear…I absolutely love the energy and sound of the melody and think the hook is strongly defined here after the powerful verse that leads into it. Great sway and pulse to the energy and pull of “In The Dark” – the performance is a seriously measurable one and the writing deserves real credit here, as do the six-players involved in bringing their album-opus to life. The guitars have serious edge to their tone & sound…the keyboards make perfect additions to the atmosphere and the drums again keep a furious beat somehow sounding perfectly controlled in a beautiful enveloping & captivating performance by After Aura as they bring this melody to life. Songs like this…at least to me…are a stunning achievement – this is the kind of song that will have you absolutely singing along with the band as the powerful chorus starts-up, and overall the kind of melody that will live on in your head for days and days afterwards.
Listen to the way that “Will You” starts though. Do you feel that same chill down your spine that I do? I bet you do…you can tell the magic of the moment is truly here from the way this song opens up. I was quite honestly expecting this tune to somehow stay small, isolated and intimate…but right around a minute into the song, they take this tune into all-new terrain in an inspired chorus once again. I’ll say this…After Aura began to truly remind me of the emotional impact that The Decemberists have in their music on “Will You.” With its multi-layered composition and beautiful emotions raging through the entire song powerfully – you really get that sound of a united band hitting their stride in a shared vision and pursuit of their dreams on “Will You.” Great vocals lead the way throughout the rumble and rock of the middle of this tune, which is bookended by the innocent & melancholy, extraordinary sounds of the piano. If you’re familiar with “The Crane Wife” by The Decemberists, and I know many of you out there are – I think you’ll get where I’m coming from in comparison to this song by After Aura…very similar, very powerful magic to the atmosphere in the approach and resulting sound – “Will You” was a huge hit with me. Thought the vocals absolutely nailed it here.
“Suzie & The Emperor” builds on their abilities to harmonize and create warm, inviting energy in their melodies. Coming after “Will You” would have been a tough spot for any song, but I think they’ve put together another smart & unsuspecting track that really creeps on up into you and into your heart. In a lot of ways, with the smart trading-off between female-led/male-led vocals in the music of After Aura and the insightful amount of ambition and energy in their music, they seem to remind me of the redeeming qualities of Australian-based band Something For Kate. “Suzie & The Emperor” has a slight Americana-edge to its sound and offers something different from the rest of what we’ve heard so far; I think they made the verse entertaining, but I also think they’ve again found a powerful chorus to take the entire song up to that next-level once again.
Really liked the sound of “Bleed” as it began…and as if attempting to show the contrast of their abilities and ideas – I felt like the verse actually outshone the chorus on this cut. I think that the chorus has a different energy than the verse that still works…but it’s a bit more on the normal-side of music as opposed to the extraordinary atmosphere they’ve created in the verse of this album’s middle-tune. The spread-out atmosphere and sound of the verse in “Bleed” is audibly tangible, thick and rich in its plentiful ideas…a real experience that sticks right to you. I think the band shows great restraint here…I feel like they could have exploited and mined the sound of the verse a lot more throughout this song but chose not to in effort to keep that magic contained. Highly repeatable experience with this song overall…and absolutely the kind of song written to really hit-home live; the contrast between energies of this one song would make for one highly-dynamic song played from the stage I’d be willing to bet.
I felt like “Try Again Tomorrow” really played well. A much more innocent-sounding melody and subdued performance on this track…and once again beautiful execution of the ideas; it’s the musical-form of quaint in many ways…it might not stand-out to you on those first listens, but I guarantee it will eventually make its mark on you. Solid imagery in the words and lyrics…inspiring to listen to really…”Try Again Tomorrow” is the exact kind of comfort in sound we all reach for at times…the kind of song we NEED to hear sometimes as opposed to simply want to hear it again. You’ll reach for this tune at times where you need that added emotion to help you break through your own problems, issues or discontent to push you right over the edge into tears and help you rebuild. At least, that’s how I felt about it…I can think of plenty of late-night hours and times where this song will be everything I want to hear.
You’ve gotta love the opening words of “If…” – I mean…if you wanna hear what love sounds like, I’m pretty sure this is it! “If there’s one thing I’d save from the fire, it’s youuuuuuuuuuuu” – I think that’s a completely beautiful line and a smart one to have written. Overall…I’ll admit that “If…” drifts a lot closer to the folk-side of the music of After Aura and a little bit outside of my own personal taste, but I still found redeeming qualities in the way it rolls along that made the journey in listening worthwhile. I thought the opening verse sounded a little bit on the shaky-side for the vocals…it’s right down in the basement of the vocal-register and hard to reach – but towards the second-minute, the vocals truly spring to life impressively. This track also includes one of THE BEST guitar solos I’ve heard on the record, if not throughout the entire year I’ve had listening to music as well. “If…” is the exact example I’d give to back up my opinion on how these songs sneak up on and surprise you…at the beginning of it I was unsure – by the end I was sold on it entirely. Love the way that “If…” builds, evolves and grows.
“Crossed The Line” had a little bit of that sea-shanty feeling to the folksiness of the writing and sound. After Aura is from the UK – but Canada actually has quite a bit of this style/sound over on our east-coast in the maritime provinces as well…so I feel like I’ve got a good grip on this one. That being said…whether in the UK, Canada or otherwise…this particular sound is pretty much never my thing. “Crossed The Line” gets points from me for the brilliant execution in the melody…also for the album’s bravest and most extraordinary breakdown moment…but other than that, not my favorite. Not their fault…I’ve found After Aura’s music to be incredibly consistent with their quality of performance and production – this one is all down to personal taste is all. It’s got a more defined country-folk edge to the sound…which is honestly going to work for some people out there a lot better than it does for me personally…nothing wrong with that – enjoy!
I also think that they’ve done the right thing by keeping this album to its eleven-track lineup. Again, I’d imagine it would be hard to choose with so many different ideas, styles and approaches when it comes to examining their material come album time…but I think from the listeners perspective, there is SO MUCH going on here at all times that anything longer than ten-tracks or so would potentially risk losing the listeners attention no matter how good the songs are. After Aura has the kind of music you can appreciate for the simplicity of the melodies they write, or you can dig right in as an audiophile like myself and get right into the multiple-layers of the music. Best example I can give ya would be to compare this band to more progressive ideas in music…I love a lot of ‘prog’ anything in different genres, but it’s undeniable that it becomes listening on an entirely different level. One that examines the music with a lot of love and respect, but one that listens so closely to gain every possible insight and hear every twist from every instrument…one that takes more effort, regardless of how good the song is.
And you wouldn’t want to miss the solid crisp-snap of the writing and ideas on “Judge & Jury” – I’m telling ya…you just wouldn’t – so perk up and pay attention will ya! I really liked this tune personally…they reminded me a lot of something akin to The Verve Pipe here on “Judge & Jury” – loved the energy that strongly drives the rhythm of this tune and the way this song never stops moving once it starts. If you’re like me and still with After Aura ready to take the ride enthusiastically at this point in the record, I think they’ve got themselves a real gem here towards the end of the record. So much so…I might have been inclined to end it there; I think that “Now You’re Gone,” the album’s final tune, has redeeming qualities through its enhanced melody and softer-sound…but I’m not sure it ended the record with as much memorable impact as “Judge & Jury” might have left us with. I think “Now You’re Gone” is written in such a way that it’s probably the kind of song that will survive and last longer on your playlist than some of the others…but also that kind of song where you end up appreciating it more and more by comparison to the rest…and sometimes, that takes time and observation…reflection and nostalgia. “Now You’re Gone” is certainly a solid-tune in its own right…but yeah…something about “Judge & Jury” seemed to me like it might have made for the ending they were looking for.
But overall…don’t get me wrong – I think we’ve found an incredibly skilled and well assembled six-piece band in After Aura that really has a solid grip on a ton of elements, sounds and styles that range through the various aspects of indie-rock, pop, folk and more – and they always deliver with a professional and REAL approach to it that sounds genuine. I think that After Aura is the kind of band you root for to succeed…because they’re clearly capable of anything they set their minds & music to. Had a great time listening to In The Dark…I’m confident you will too.
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!