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MP3 American Aquarium - Antique Hearts

Put broadly, American Aquarium is an indie rock band with a country flare. Whether you call it alternative country, twang-core, or garage folk, one thing is for certain: these guys love to play loud music.

13 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Americana, ROCK: Roots Rock

Put broadly, American Aquarium is an indie rock band with a country flare. Whether you call it alternative country, twang-core, or garage folk, one thing is for certain: these guys love to play loud music. When people are confronted with the electric twang of a three-guitar assault (two electrics and one acoustic), they are taken aback. At first glance, the shaggy hair and thrift shop stylings might typecast this group as just another garage band making noise, but when a twangy southern howl blasts over the six-piece band, stereotypes go out the window. Comprised of a neo-folk everyman, a guitarist who thinks its 1975, a veteran hardcore drummer, a hard rock bassist, a beatnik with a viola and a true soul-man on keys, American Aquarium as a whole breaks down all boundaries of what a band should sound like. A majority of people, including some band members themselves, don''t know what genre of music this stuff fits into. Wouldn''t the southern vocals make it a country band? Well, would a country band have a double kick drum?
These six musicians have set out to make original rock music that can be enjoyed by as many different people as possible. Chugging guitar riffs and catchy hooks make these songs easy to rock out to or sing along with. It is impossible to pigeonhole American Aquarium into one style of playing. They may play a thunderous rock song that has the crowd moving with every chord of the guitar, then silence the same crowd with a five minute piano ballad. The band''s live show is where they take the most pride, and as such have built a large fan base in their hometown of Raleigh, NC. Regularly drawing a few hundred to every show, American Aquarium loves to keep the crowd guessing. Be it two songs or two hours, this band just generally loves to play music. Their array of musical taste has not only allowed them to bring something to the table for everyone, but for everyone to leave satisfied.


Independent Weekly- The American Aquarium musical ideal, as constructed by frontman and songwriter B.J. Barham, applies the principals of Uncle Tupelo as absolute apotheoses: His voice aims at the blunt brunt of Jay Farrar, though his band--drums, bass, keys, viola, guitar--is slowly aiming at the textures of Jeff Tweedy. It''s a predictably hit-or-miss formula, with lyrical slabs of teenage-confessional Conor Oberst and willow-weeping Ryan Adams guiding the pen. But their long-in-coming debut, Antique Hearts, is one of the young year''s most pleasant surprises. - Grayson Currin

Independent Weekly - (full review) Live, American Aquarium is a big, roots-rock blunt object, a monolithic, acoustic guitar-based band, vicariously drinking behind the wheel and careening down a North Carolina country road via B.J. Barham''s major chord laments. It has its moments, but the band can be as guilty of overplaying as Barham can be of oversinging. On stage, American Aquarium tries to make everything an arena ballad with a Reidsville accent and a punk zest, and Barham sometimes sounds like he''s singing in the shower to old Whiskeytown EPs.
But attribute that to an ambition that makes the band feel as though it needs to save every soul in a room with its music. Oddly, it''s that same ambition--a grindstone determination to turn Barham''s songs into the things that kids depend upon to get over heartbreak and jump back into love--which causes the band''s long-in-coming debut LP, Antique Hearts, to work so well. Viola, mandolin, organ, guitars, drums, bass and harmonica finally give Barham''s songs leeway and room to breathe, moving from broad-shoulders rock to white-neck soul over 13 tracks.
Accompanied by this capable cast of ensemble (and tempered) players, Barham sounds like he''s settling into his own, espousing his empirically derived views on life, love, loss and letting go with the confidence of a mature songwriter. Barham constantly sounds like he''s going somewhere, and he casts himself as a peripatetic wanderer, a rolling stone with a guitar and, he hopes, a story. His chief struggle, then, is deciding on his own ultimate destination, and that beatnik indecision is what keeps him alive. On the astonishingly bright "California," he sings, "Two lovers who saw a normal life and drove the other way," only to pine later for a more compelling reunion with his paramour. That quest, met by what sounds like atheism ("Why would I ever start to pray to a God that''s always only six feet away?"), points Barham to nihilist territory.
That''s simplistic, though: It''s the details and the essence--life in a city that "steals his paycheck one drink at a time," the streetlight outside of his window, the liberation of being able to leave his hometown--that offers Barham his salvation. Really, he just knows that, more than any religion, faith or creed, the daily struggle to survive while smiling is something on which we all can, and should, latch.
None of this is perfect, transcendent or revolutionary, but, as every song here asserts, we''re only human.-Grayson Currin

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