Aeroplane Pageant - Float Above the Yard
Record Label: Stormy Ice Records
Release Date: Oct. 3, 2011
There's something altogether intriguing, puzzling and mysterious about the Long Island indie-pop quintet Aeroplane Pageant. On their eye-opening sophomore effort Even the Kids Don't Believe Me, the group crafted avant-garde pop music deeply rooted in tight harmonics and psychedelia. On their third studio album Float Above the Yard, they offer more of the same, but dig a little deeper.
Inspired by the likes of the Velvet Underground, Guided by Voices and the Flaming Lips, Float Above the Yard is equal parts orchestral, cinematic and pensive. In ushering out their collective mission statement, the album plays out with a whimsical, Lennon-inspired swerve that's almost too good to be true. There's ample amounts of swagger and confidence, as evidenced in album opener, "Cities as a Dream," which employs Brian Kelly's entrancing vocals and a jaunty frolic that anchors the listener from the get-go. On the ebullient "Brief Confessions of a Young Bear," the quintet offers up tense percussion, urgent bass lines and plinky synth lines that are both indelible and imaginative.
That sense of imagination is fully realized on the twinkling and danceable single "Help Me Shoot This Apple Off My Head," an exercise which once again draws on Kelly's vocals, the band's mastery of tone and a charisma that seeps through the speakers from the very first note. While the song is decidedly busy there's something commanding that brings the listener closer and closer. It feels brainy, it feels enigmatic and it feels transcendent. And it is that very skill that makes Float Above the Yard so intriguing. It is far too easy to try and be different and chase down something pensive, head-scratching and creative. But pulling off that vision so effortlessly and making it sound so engaging is the real trick. Aeroplane Pageant seem to know exactly how to do that. And man do they do it well.
There is no better example of this than on the swirly ballad, "Desperate Characters," an enveloping exercise, in which Kelly pinpoints the indecision and difficulties of romance. When he sings, "And part of you has drifted, like a voice that breaks with distance, and I hate that I'll admit it, when I came here to listen, I came here for you," he's revealing a vulnerability and sincerity that is as candid and as sincere as anything else released this year.
The album creeps along on the haunting and hypnotic "Big Little Wolfs," which has traces of both Isaac Brock and Jesse Lacey. While that's probably a selling point, the song is gnomic and terse, and will probably be considered by many to be filler. In truth the song actually serves as segue to the brassy "We Were Once a Boy," a head bobbing ode to nostalgia that's air-tight, acerbic and ultimately avuncular.
If Float Above the Yard were to have a second single it would most likely be the pleading "Bird Ghost," in which Kelly bleats "I love you up and down, I love you up and down," in a zigzagging manner that teeters and shakes. There's desperation and quivering in his vocals that help make the exercise that much more believable. The languorous title track is another layered and encircling effort that drives home what the band is best at: magnetic, if-not circular arrangements that are oft-times melancholic, almost always magical and sometimes, yes sometimes, merry.
The fact that Float Above the Yard is such a memorable listen is certainly no surprise. After all, Even the Kids Don't Believe Me pointed at something promising and that vision is only furthered with this effort. Additionally, the disc was mixed by two-time Grammy-winning mixer Bob Brockman (Notorious B.I.G, Debbie Gibson, Bob Dylan) and mastered by Joe Lambert (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, The National). That two veteran studio wizards would attach themselves to such a project is no surprise. In the end, this kind of magnetism cannot be feigned or forced. It is manifested only by skilled craftsmen, and the five men that make up Aeroplane Pageant are indeed that. If this album doesn't get people talking, we might as well just pack it all in.