AaRON

Birds in the Storm

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    8
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OK, so their full name is pompous ("Artificial Animals Riding on Neverland") and they aren't exactly original, but AaRON still do a lot to uphold the honor of La Belle France in the face of Anglo-Saxon indie rock. Birds in the Storm plays by the rules, down to the English lyrics, but what really matters is that it is a clever, moody, and enjoyable piece of work. The duo of Simon Buret and Olivier Coursier runs the gamut of associations here, from the upbeat Brit-pop of "Seeds of Gold" to "A Thousand Wars," which sounds like a more dejected version of "Street Spirit," especially thanks to the Thom Yorke imitation in the vocals. Many other bands can be name-checked in between: AaRON mostly stick to an ascetic guitar-based setup -- sometimes just a guitar and nothing else -- and it's hard to navigate those waters and come across as entirely unique. Electronica undercurrents in the Air/Moby vein do help, though, and anyway, the main thing about Birds in the Storm is not innovation, but the flawlessly crafted, deceptively engulfing atmosphere, which, after a couple of sunnier numbers, begins to justify the title, skillfully mixing fragility and nervous tension. Maybe Birds After the Storm would have been a still more fitting description, too, as the album is definitely on the quiet side, filled with sparse and bleak-but-comforting numbers that feel like the aftermath of a disaster that wasn't described on the record. In fact, they aren't far from Joy Division there, only by way of Mount Eerie, with jangly, laconic post-punk guitars mixed with indie folk restraint -- but, again, those are imperfect analogies: AaRON's influences are no secret, but they do get all credits for the ambience.

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