Abney Park: Aether Shanties
Abney Park is a Seattle – based band, who got their start in 1997, under "Dread Captain" Robert Brown, who is also the lead vocalist, songwriter, diatonic button accordion, harmonica, and darbuka player. The band includes Kristina Erickson, keyboards and piano; Nathaniel Johnstone, guitars, violin, mandolin, and bouzouki; Daniel Cederman on bass and acoustic guitar; with Jody Ellen providing vocals.
The number of great songs on this album almost make it a greatest hits collection. This album takes you, like all of their albums, back to a time that, as they say, "never was", but they wish existed. Like taking a time warp trip back to the turn of the 19th or 20th Century.
This is their best album, in my humble opinion. But so far, I have found few that have any misses on them. Excellent, entertaining sounds and melodies full of adventure and life.
Just what you'd expect from a pirate crew, a pirate story, coming in "Under the Radar". A cool story set to an even better beat and melody. Pounding darbuka and rippling mandolin, as the opening verses tell of the Ophelia's dastardly sneak attack. Robert and Jody bring the cool refrain, "Well here we come on the run our coal fires are burning. Here we come fife and drum. Propellers in the dawn. Here we come on the run. Under the radar we crept on". Later we get what sounds like a full orchestra effect as one of the band's best songs reaches its climax. A great album opener full of life and fun. The mandolin ending is wonderful.
No sense stopping now we're "Building Steam". This song has a danceable beat and power accordion with Robert banging that darbuka like the beat of a heart. More great lyrics and a great melody which will keep you on your feet. The mandolin solo is worth the wait. Another powerful song full of emotion and life. The teaming of Robert and Jody creates a new sound full of harmony. Kristina's keyboards move you like an ocean wave. The background strings electrify.
My new favorite song is "Until the Day You Die". If ever a band had an anthem, this is it. The classic turn of the 20th Century opening on this one will blow you away. Robert opens the story, "I've traced this dream since I was five. And I have barely stayed alive. While folks have fallen off this ship. While I have never lost my grip". That awesome beat of the drum and the keys are just perfect. Takes you right back in time. If you're not dancing with them by the end of this one…well…I don't know what will make you dance. So full of life and inspiration to see a dream come true you'll want to get up and cheer for them. "…I mean the kind of music that a man can hum or whistle when they feel on top of the world…" Yep, that's it. Kristina takes us out with another fun piano ride.
Middle Eastern - like chants and rhythms open another song of celebration, "My Life". The drums, violin, and guitar will again have you dancing. Another song full of great music and lyrics. "My love, my life, my band, my wife. I get lost. I get used. Take the praise and abuse". The instrumental section is wonderful, but way too short.
Steam and steel before that darbuka bursts through to start the "Wanderlust". More fun and full of exciting rhythms and percussion. More dancing and great lyrics. Richard Lopez provides the fun trombone. "If I can't wander I will die. I could give a monkey's eye". Kristina provides some cool keys to break up the percussion at just the right moment. "My lungs are full of mud". You can't tell by the rhythm and lively beat of this song. Jody's echoing vocals add to the symphony of sound.
"Throw Them Overboard" is another of the best songs on this album, which is now my favorite album. If you haven't been dancing through this whole album, this one is bound to set your feet on fire. The drums and percussion have an excellent beat. The lyrics are fun, "If you map out my psychology it would look like archeology". Jody's vocal play is perfectly in rhythm with the drums and the sound. That trombone adds the perfect amount of fun to the soundscape. Another fun song which will pick you up out of any sadness.
More pirate escapades roll out with "The Derelict". "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest…yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum". Full of mandolin, darbuka, accordion, and keys. Cool pirate lyrics and a beat that will keep you up and dancing.
The story behind "Victoria" is sad and based on a real child. After all the happy danceable beats this one really slows you down to think. Kristina's piano is perfect, as is the slow pitter patter of drums and percussion, like rain. Robert stretches his vocal range and depth with this deep song full of passion and emotion, in sound and lyrics.
The harmonica pulls us back into that pirate rhythm with "Aether Shanty". Another cool pirate story set to rollicking rhythms and great lyrics. Good guitars, drums, and percussion. "And before it's all ended there could be a fight". The mandolin solos are fantastic.
Winding clocks and another fast rev up beat opens "The Clockyard". Another interesting story full of good lyrics and great vocals from Robert and Jody. The guitar solos take the sound even higher on this one. The drum beats keep you dancing.
Keyboards open "Too Far to Turn Back", before those pounding jungle drums roar forward. Imagine the boat trip to Skull Island and you're there. Robert is otherworldly in his vocal delivery. Jody's right there with perfect support.
1."Under the Radar" - 2:58
2."Building Steam" - 4:00
3."Until the Day You Die" - 2:46
4."My Life" - 3:05
5."Wanderlust" - 2:53
6."Throw Them Overboard" - 3:15
7."The Derelict" - 3:17
8."Victoria" - 4:43
9."Æther Shanty" - 2:48
10."The Clock Yard" - 3:26
11."Too Far To Turn Back" - 3:21
Added: March 25th 2011
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Band Website
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