Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties

We Don't Have Each Other

Written by: LF on 12/11/2014 13:59:30

Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties is the overall slower paced but just as elaborate side project of Dan 'Soupy' Campbell, who is primarily known as the lead singer of successful pop punk band The Wonder Years, and the project's debut record was released earlier this year. The entire album is wrapped in a mood that combines a certain kind of overall optimism with emotional despair that is breaking through the surface. Campbell describes the project as a sort of character study through music, and the mood I just described is communicated through a story developed through the album that follows the thoughts of the fictional character Aaron West who is going through a divorce.

The kind of emotional lyrics that Campbell is so good at putting together really shine here, as they get all the space they could want to develop through the mainly slow paced, singer-songwriter-like songs. It's not exactly that Campbell has an amazing vocal range but he is extremely talented in the way he delivers his lyrics, managing to convey some very complex feelings in very few lines. As such, some of my favorite moments of delivery are from the song "Grapefruit" that has the main character seemingly giving up as he sings about his shattered dreams and how he might just drink the pain of it all away.

The songs span from entirely energetic and forward-striving songs like "Runnin' Scared" or "You Ain't No Saint" that both have full band backing, to more low key ones like the heart-breaking "Divorce and the American South" that really gathers up power by the end where a lonely trumpet joins with the acoustic guitar. Most of them have a very American feel to them in the sense that they borrow from various kinds of roots, country or big band music in their choice of rhythms and instruments, not least on intro song "Our Apartment". The big band vibe comes mainly from the inclusion of a brass section in several of the songs, as in "The Thunderbird Inn" that features one of the main memorable lines of the record when Campbell screams in a pained, almost excusing voice: "I didn't know that I looked that pathetic". "You Ain't No Saint" is remarkable in its own way as the brass section sounds more free here than on other tracks. The inclusion of a jazzy, curiously optimistic saxophone particularly evokes "The Roaring Twenties" of the project's name, which adds contrast to the generally sad and lonely lyrics and intertwines especially well with Campbell's vocals in the otherwise pretty pain-filled chorus that goes: "Cause I know / That I'm banged up / I got bruises I can't place / Oh I've been coughing out blood".

The songs are solidly composed overall and even though Campbell's voice is very clear and dominating in general, there's enough variation in the music that it doesn't get annoying or boring as I initially feared it would. Still, it's predominantly a story-telling singer-songwriter album based around some solid but not amazing instrumental work. Listening through the album is almost therapeutic as it carries its listener through different phases of acceptance of the bad things that happen in life and there's definitely lyrical material enough here to investigate for several listens. It's overall an enjoyable record that I'm sure to revisit from time to time since I keep on finding new little tweaks in Campbell's intense but nuanced vocals. It's also definitely not just for people who were already into Campbell's other work.

Download: You Ain't No Saint, Divorce and the American South, Our Apartment, Grapefruit
For The Fans Of: Lucero, The Wonder Years, Bright Eyes, Have Mercy
Listen: facebook.com/ aaronwestandtheroaringtwenties

Release date 08.07.2014
Hopeless Records

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