Written by: DR on 31/08/2011 19:59:37

It does seem that usually when bands are disillusioned with their surroundings, music scenes or crowds unwilling to think for themselves, that frustration and anger manifests itself in angsty, unrelenting music. And then there is Aficionado, who are not so aggressive and cathartic, who take a more positive approach to writing music, but one that is no-less passionate or meaningful.

This passion is most evident in the lyrical basis of the album. Aficionado write about themes such as learning to deal with change, accepting ageing, thinking for yourself and trying to become a charismatic person, but they do so without presenting themselves as preachy or pretentious, instead they are the opposite, you can tell they're coming from a place of caring - they want things to be better; moreover, they are unafraid to question themselves, making their lyrics at all times tinted with an endearing humility and crafted with intelligence and sharp wit that makes the entire lyrical experience wonderful.

Right off the bat "The Things You Like" wastes no time in getting to point with all the dynamism and urgency of Rise Against, in a scathing indictment of the mainstream music industry. However, as this band has seven members, the punk-edge has been considerably toned down in order to give freedom to a wider array of instrumentation and influence.

As engaging as the lyrical aspect of this band is, and as infectious as the male/female vocal relationship that Nick Warchol and Laura Carrozza share is, the musicianship is arguably the most impressive facet of "Aficionado". With influences as diverse as Sunny Day Real Estate, At The Drive-In, Cursive and The Hold Steady, and I'm sensing some Hot Water Music, Queen and Jimmy Eat World, too, Aficionado's sound would fit into the parameters of what has become 'alternative', but they incorporate more unorthodox elements, such as the use of a flute, horn-parts and the organ to create a unique approach to walking on a familiar road. This is where this seven-piece set themselves apart; they've managed to marry experimentation with immediacy. They don't quite sound like anything else out there, but it only takes one listen to songs as catchy as "The Things You Like" and "Confidence is Intimidating" to become hooked.

You get the feeling the album deliberately builds towards the final three songs, ensuring it ends on a high-note. "Permanent" breaks from their more up-tempo format, instead opting for a stripped-back acoustic affair that gives Warchol's sincere voice - somewhere between Adam Lazzara and Chuck Ragan - room to shine, backed by layers of sweeping textures. "Characters" acts as little more than a jazzy introduction to the seven-minute closer "Open Doors", and isn't a song that can really be taken without leading into the closing epic, but that doesn't matter when the closing epic really is an epic. It combines the energy and passion of the previous nine tracks, however, it plays with the listener, in the sense that it threatens to spill the emotions over into a theatrical, Queen-esque climax a number of times, but when the finish actually does come it is more than worth the build-up it took to get there.

It's almost difficult to believe that "Aficionado" is only their debut, but it's not without fault. The final three tracks - the ones that experiment the most - are by far the stand-out songs. Whether this is due to the previous songs sounding similar, thus blending in together, or because they really are just great songs on an otherwise very good album, is up for interpretation. Despite the former point, Aficionado don't actually sound like anyone else out there. They've penned one of the most energetic, infectious, passionate, and thought-provoking records of 2011, and in doing so have innovated a niche for themselves in an overcrowded music scene.


Download: Things You Like, Permanent, Characters, Open Doors
For The Fans of: The idea of Jimmy Eat World + Hot Water Music + Sunny Day Real Estate + At The Drive-In + Cursive + The Hold Steady + Queen
Listen: Bandcamp

Release Date 26.07.2011
No Sleep Records

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