You might not have heard of Aberdeen City, a quartet of musicians hailing from the prestigious Boston music scene, but once you listen to their third album, The Freezing Atlantic, you'll definitely want to know more about them. Comprised of Brad Parker on lead vocals and bass, Chris McLaughlin on guitar, noise, and vocals, Ryan Heller on guitar and keys, and Rob McCaffrey on drums, their material raises striking similarities to Radiohead and The Strokes. These guys have got a load of talent on their hands, and their style becomes more definitive and lush as the tracks progress.
Formed in 2001 after each member met at Boston College, one of the top academic institutions in the country – the band clearly isn't a bunch of dummies when it comes to making a song that can keep someone captivated – they developed a cult following in and around the area. Whether it was because of their highly eclectic musical style, simplistic, yet earnest lyrics regarding human tragedy, or the pure genius they invoked with their compositions, Aberdeen City was instantly recognized by the record label Dovecoat after their first single won a Boston Music Award.
Late last year, before they even released The Freezing Atlantic, the album was voted as Local Album of 2006 by Boston Phoenix readers. MSNBC speaks of its bold, orchestral rock sound, Soundbites says it's just flat out good music, and Rhapsody notes their memorable and propelling verses. All this critical acclaim is probably the cause of Aberdeen City re-releasing the album, due out August 8th.
Their ten-song invention starts off with "Another Seven Years" which instantly showcases Mr. Parker's wide vocal range and a particularly catchy chorus. The instrumentation here isn't something that's much different than what you've heard before in the current indie music extravaganza, but there is one thing that sets Aberdeen City apart from their rivals - the fact that their music has well-executed layers and everything seems to fit together. They are very much unlike those bands that arise from out of nowhere and are quick to be deemed the "next big thing" whose music is good to a certain degree, but not specifically motivated.
For their next song, we are taken from a subdued delirium in the title track to a slower, more settled "Best Chances Are Gone", and then shuffled just as quickly into "Brighton", a 7 ½ minute passionate rock opera. By "rock opera", I am not referencing Queen's symphony-like arrangement of "Bohemian Rhapsody". No, Aberdeen City's "rock opera" is more characteristic of gentle and disturbing lyricism, intertwined with a slowly-mounting tenseness which mellows out at the very end, seeming to put a finality on the journey just experienced.
The listener is expertly fooled, and impelled into what has been deemed one of the most popular songs on the album, "God is Going to Get Sick of Me". It certainly has a catchy foundation, but in my opinion, is probably a little too overrated. This is really the only track I see on The Freezing Atlantic which could potentially be radio-friendly. Don't get me wrong, it's respectable, but I wasn't taken aback like I was on "Brighton".
"In Combat" is teeming with rich harmonies, both vocally and instrumentally. This facet is easily conveyed through all the overlaying parts that the musicians put forth. Aberdeen City really begins to experiment with melodies and instruments in "Mercy". Alongside the classic guitar and drums, Mr. McLaughlin contributes mysterious noise in the refrain and Mr. Heller bestows on the listener a well-written, yet somewhat hard-to-hear keys part towards the conclusion.
In "Pretty Pet", my favorite song of the ten, all the aspects of good music are conveyed. It's as if the previous tracks came to a culmination at this point – these four guys can't get any better. Yes, the Radiohead influence runs rampant here, but as Mr. Parker justifies in a recent interview on the questions of sounding like other bands, "Well, no one makes music in a vacuum. Most people aren't isolated growing up. I think that musicians have listened to an awful lot of music and have been influenced by that music to various degrees throughout their lives."
Just one song later, in "Sixty Lives", The Strokes seem to replace Radiohead, and Aberdeen City does a nice job paying homage to the band from the same region. One of the best moments on the album comes through in "Stay Still". It has a typical grungy-rock feeling, but lends a false ending to all the havoc at the finale, coming back within a few seconds, it brings a softened perspective which ends up being the fundamental basis of the entire song - truly pleasing to the ears.
To conclude The Freezing Atlantic, what better way to do so than with "The Arrival", a magnificent number with a haunting chorus (possibly the best on the entire CD). It starts off with an engaging acoustic solo, and then transforms itself into a melodic masterpiece – trust me, that's not an overstatement.
Aberdeen City does slow and collected music much better than quick tempo, rushed music. It's in those decelerated tracks where the full brunt of the bittersweet and sorrow-filled lyrics really envelope you. Aberdeen City has created a list of songs that really accommodate one another, and in the process, have provided their listener with one the best arrangements possible. Yes, they do have a familiar style, but it varies so highly from song-to-song that it doesn't matter. One thing that does make a difference is the fact that this is easily one of the best debut albums I've ever heard, and within just two listens, became an indelible part of me.