Aurora- Stepping Stones
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: March 5th, 2013
It has only been about five months since Aurora released their first Extended Play (EP) titled Fairweather in October. Yet after listening to Stepping Stones it's hard to believe that more time hasn't passed for the band, since the sound is a huge improvement from it's predecessor. Stepping Stones shows Aurora understanding and refining what worked on Fairweather, but more importantly what didn't work.
The EP opens up with the title song "Stepping Stones". The track shows some intricate guitar work from Rob Heckman that begins to set the mood before Sean O'Loughlin's vocals come in belting "Hey I know it's cold at the corner of your bedside, we don't have to sleep alone." The mood is established which makes it hard not to feel the chill the song is referring too. It's even harder not to sing along when you know the words. This song just beckons for crowd participation as the band ignites the audience before setting fire with "Searchlight."
"Searchlight" channels the energy and urgency of early Title Fight (in reference to the song symmetry) and is one of the best songs the band has written. The song is made all the better by the 1-2 punch of the opening track "Stepping Stones" firing into "Searchlight". Sean O'Loughlin's voice has made a dramatic improvement since Fairweather, as he exercises much more control over his voice by matching both the speed and intensity of his band-mates. The lyrics are another high point of the song with lines like "One day I'll outrun this dark cloud over my head, but for now I'm content sitting here soaking wet." The song moves along at a blistering rate only to be slowed down in the bridge, where Ryan Irizarry's ferocious drumming takes center stage complimented by Tim Duval's bass work. Then, everyone shifts gears into the outro with the whole band echoing the lines "Sitting here soaking wet," to end the song with some great resonance.
The second half of Stepping Stones shows the band experimenting a bit with their sound. Rough Gem is a mid tempo track that crescendos into its conclusion, yet it doesn't reach the same highs that "Searchlight" achieves as a track. It would be safe to say Aurora is better off playing breakneck speed pop punk, but the closing track "Violet" says otherwise.
"Violet" is an acoustic closer and the band's first recorded acoustic track. The guitars have an airy summer feel to them and O'Loughlin's vocal melody compliments them well which ends Stepping Stones on a high note.
Stepping Stones has the band members of Aurora putting together a much more cohesive effort in their second release. The EP shows a band confident in trying new things such as crafting an introduction track in "Stepping Stones," slowing down the tempo for "Rough Gem," or deciding to strip the sound down to acoustic for "Violet." Stepping Stones is full of variety, but the band is no doubt the strongest when they're blistering along to double time angst filled pop punk and "Searchlight" is proof of that.