Matchless Years

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On the opening track, perfect for the climax of an '80s teen comedy where the meek protagonist chases down the girl of his dreams (complete with a Jesus and Mary Chain-type climax full of woahs and ohs), the light-hearted melodrama titled "Seventy Jane" ends as a tearjerker with the words "Don't you know for people like us/There are no happy endings/Only endings." Such is the theme of Aarktica's Matchless Years. Despite a move to California from the Big Apple, Jon DeRosa has yet to find sunnier pastures, and is still singing melancholic songs spiced with tinges of hope. This outing is a tad warmer than prior releases, but rather than evoking the spirit of beach bunnies building sandcastles, the mood is suitable for trench-coated Londoners trudging through winter drizzles. The somber mood is nothing new, but now his songs sound more like traditional singer/songwriter compositions that borrow equally from reverberated shoegaze and electronica. Time passes slowly and songs drift by sleepily. It's meditative and yawn-producing, with limited choruses, and nothing jarring or even grabbing, making for, at best, non-intrusive background mood music. Formerly edgy, now DeRosa sounds bland. It's not that there's anything especially wrong with Matchless Years by any means -- in fact, it's slightly more polished than his former releases -- but it's also not nearly as emotional and charming as, say, No Solace in Sleep or even Bleeding Light. Add the fact that three of the eight songs are directionless instrumentals, and you've got yourself a short little sleeper. Call it a napper.

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