Aaron Sprinkle – Water and Guns

waterandguns

Aaron Sprinkle – Water & Guns
Tooth & Nail / BEC
September 30, 2013

What It Sounds Like:  Already an all-star from his works in Poor Old Lu, Fair, Rose Blossom Punch, and a crazy amount of Tooth & Nail productions, Aaron Sprinkle now brings us his fourth official solo record (his first in twelve years of all brand new tracks), which takes on a more synth/electronic approach than we could have expected.  Still, Owl City this isn’t, and leave it to Aaron to knock it out of the park; you have a winner on your hands.

You’ve never given an answer
That didn’t give you away
You say you’re doing your best your whole life
But you’re not even awake.
I want to cross the sea
But it’s not up to me.

All things done and said
I’m going under again
For (four) years
And for hours
I’ve missed you.

I’d being lying to you if I said I wasn’t already partial to this record before it even touched my player.  Kick me off the jury – I have a strong bias.

Aaron Sprinkle is one of my favorites as far as a producer, writer, and performer is concerned.  He’s had so many countless connections in the industry that he’s made over the years, and everything he touches seems to turn to gold.   Poor Old Lu was groundbreaking in the mid-1990s, and his trio of solo records that followed were nothing short of lessons in restraint, humility, and passion.  Without question, however, his more recent work as lead vocalist of Fair brought us The Best Worst-Case Scenario in 2006 and Disappearing World in 2010, both of which very well may get near perfect scores if I were ever to review them; especially the former.  Wonderful in every sense.  I’ll have to get on that soon…

Water and Guns, however, is a bit of a curveball.  It’s much more slick of a record than I was expecting from a solo release, as it takes some of the keyboard elements from Fair and amplifies them to become much more dominant from an electronic standpoint.  But, as I said in the beginning, this isn’t Owl City.  This isn’t The Postal Service.  This is, not by any stretch of the imagination, synth pop.  However, it does make some stronger nods in that direction than any of his past work does, so the comparisons are well warranted.  Straight guitars and live drums are overshadowed by slick production elements, and while that may not be my go-to, here’s what I, as well as you, reader, need to keep in mind:  this is a natural progression for Sprinkle.  He veers into slightly new territory, but makes it his own, and excels.  Nothing overly borrowed here.  It’s also essential to recognize that while electronics, keys, and piano may play a much larger part here than they ever have before, the go-to acoustic guitar is found on almost all of these tracks – it’s simply just not the main attraction, but it’s used enough to let us know that it’s there – you don’t have to search for it.

This record goes down smooth, from the aquatic means of keys that make opener Heatstroke into the pop jam that is meant to be, to the beckoning of the night sky, open road, and 3-in-the-morning commutes in the floating Can’t Last Forever.  Elsewhere, River Of Lead shoots to be grand as grand can be, while the minimalist bass synth jam Turn Around sounds just as large without even trying.

The piano, by far, is the weapon of choice for Sprinkle on Water and Guns, showcased the best on the killer Whisper Something.  A simple treble melody is soothing in the verse, while the chorus takes on a fantastic a set of  bass key strokes, along with a classic “stomp, stomp, clap” backer.

Lyrically, Sprinkle shines like he always does, but seems to be a tad more transparent in his writing this time around.  There’s no mistaking the likes of I’ve Missed You or Giving Up The Gun as tug-of-war battles in love and loss.  For example:

You could have tried a little harder
You could have been a little stronger
And needed me more.

With an ocean underneath me
Holding on to what tomorrow brings
But it’s always a storm.

All this time / Keeping it in
Need some kind of hope / But you couldn’t begin
To see this doubt / Welling up in my eyes
Getting harder to swallow this disguise.

I’ve been losing a war / I just can’t fight anymore
Giving up the gun / Giving up the gun
I’ll live to love another day.
Maybe someday you’ll see / You made a martyr of me
Giving up the gun / Giving up the gun
I’ll live to love another day.

As stated, this is a change in sound for what we were expecting to hear from Aaron Sprinkle, but there’s nothing here to find fault in.  It’s like using a crayon to make a picture instead of a finely-sharpened colored pencil.  It’s different, but it can be just as rewarding.

8/10

If you had to listen to two tracks:  Heatstroke / Whisper Something

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