CD Review: Sleeping in the Aviary / You and Me, Ghost
Reviewed by: Dorise Gruber
If you were to ask Elliott Kozel, throaty front man of the eccentric 5-piece Sleeping in the Aviary, what he thinks of his new album You and Me, Ghost, he’d probably respond cheekily “Best one yet!” He’d laugh since this is the way he introduces all of his albums, but I might have to agree. As much as I’m a sucker for their first two albums especially, by the time I was approached about reviewing this album I’d already gotten my mitts on an advanced copy, and iTunes informs me I’d already listened to it over 20 times through.
A perpetual dark horse in the mainstream indie scene, SITA doesn’t spend much time worrying about convention or genre, weaving from post-punk to raspy-folk to Hawaiian-garage and now to radical doo-wop. Resurrecting dated musical styles may not be a revolutionary concept, but in a sea of old-as-new competitors, Sleeping in the Aviary’s approach is unique. They don’t define themselves around an old-timey persona, but instead continue to evolve their style organically over time, never allowing their musical ilk to be resigned to a unilateral category.
You and Me, Ghost is rife with shoo-be-do’s and sha-la-la’s, but make no mistake, this is not your grandmother’s 50’s record. Whether it’s a tender ballad or a song so frantic the words are trapped stampeding out of Kozel’s mouth, every song is still unmistakably Sleeping In The Aviary in style. Smart-alecky but playful, grainy but sweet, this release adds yet another layer of complexity to SITA’s repertoire.
The album opens with their new hit “Talking Out Of Turn,” which is probably the song that best ties together You and Me, Ghost. It’s an abrasively smooth number that sets the tone for the album, preparing you both for prettier numbers and those with more of an edge. It encapsulates not only the style but also the theme – this is their first album where all the songs are about girls.
“Talking Out Of Turn” is easily one of my favorite tracks on the album, but there’s no shortage of stand-out tracks. “Love Police” and “On The Way Home” are probably the most deranged, but I also think in their recklessness that they’re the most fun. On the flip side, the title track is one of the slower numbers, and rattling in its earnestness. A forlorn letter to the ghost of a former lover, complete with haunting “ooh-oohs,” its somber affection is pretty touching.
Every once and awhile Kozel steps aside to let one of his bandmates wrestle with the lead vocal role, and on this album we get to hear newest SITA member Kyle Sobczak play frontman on both “So Lonely” and “Karen, You’re an Angel,” my other two favorite tracks on the album. “So Lonely” has a really fuzzed-out 50s-beach-party kind of vibe, and “Karen, You’re An Angel” is like a 2011 answer to the 1950’s Penguin’s song “Earth Angel.” A love song about getting older and saggier and growing nose-hair, it’s definitely sillier than something you’d have heard in the 50s, but the sentiment just as dear and the harmonies just as tight.
Other tracks on the album include “Someone Loves You,” which is probably the most mainstream sounding song on the album, the toe-tapping “Ain’t So Bad,” and then four much airier songs woven throughout the second half of the album – “Are You Afraid of Being Poor,” “Molly,” “Infatuation,” and the last track “Pathetic Housewife Remembering Her First Martini.” These are the four more timeless numbers on the album – relatively straightforward songs that actually might have been hits decades ago, though there’s a bit of hollering toward the end of “Infatuation,” some distorted shrieks in “Molly,” and some murky riffs in the other tunes that still distinguish them as current-day numbers.
Now promoting their 4th album in just 5 years and about to embark on yet another unrelenting tour schedule, Sleeping in the Aviary is teetering on the brink of success with You and Me, Ghost. Big guys like Daytrotter are starting to take notice, and I suggest you get yourself an album and catch them on tour now so you can brag later that you liked them before they blew up.
You and Me, Ghost drops on September 6, 2011, being released by Science of Sound Records. Sleeping in the Aviary is Elliott Kozel (vocals, guitar), Phil Mahlstadt (bass), Michael Sienkowski (drums, backing vocals), Celeste Heule (accordion, keyboards, musical saw), and Kyle Sobczak (guitar).
9.2 Chicago, IL @ Schuba’s
9.3 Appleton, WI @ Patti Mayonaisse
9.8 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
9.9 Madison, WI @ Memorial Union/Rathskellar
9.10 Milwaukee, WI @ Frank’s Power Plant
9.16 Minneapolis, MN @ Coffman Memorial Union Campus Arts Festival
9.16 Stevens Point, WI @ TBA
9.17 Chicago, IL @ TBA
9.18 Fairfield, IA @ Beauty Shop
9.19 Grand Rapids, MI @ Divison Avenue Arts Collective
9.20 Kalamazoo, MI @ TBA
9.21 Bloomington, IN @ Gourley House
9.22 Indianapolis, IN @ Melody Inn
9.23 Toledo, OH @ Ottawa Tavern
9.24 Detroit, MI @ Lager House
9.26 Cleveland, OH @ Boo Box
9.27 Pittsburgh, PA @ Thunderbird Café
9.28 Philadelphia, PA @ TBA
9.29 Brooklyn, NY @ TBA
9.30 Troy, NY @ 51 3rd Street Space
10.1 Lowell, MA @ House Show
10.2 Brooklyn, NY @ Shea Stadium
10.4 Cambridge, MA @ The Middle East Upstairs
10.5 Washington, DC @ Velvet Lounge
10.6 Richmond, VA @ Sprout
10.7 Raleigh, NC @ Yerducken House
10.8 Charleston, NC @ Tin Roof
10.12 Charlotte, NC @ Sewarcide Mansion
10.14 Atlanta, GA @ TBA
10.15 Tallahassee, FL @ TBA
10.16 New Orleans @ The Saint
10.17 Shreveport, LA @ Balzell House
10.18 Little Rock, AR @ Super Happy Funland
10.19 Dallas, TX @ TBA
10.21 Austin, TX @ TBA
10.22 San Antonio, TX @ TBA
10.24 Tulsa, OK @ Soundpony