Chad VanGaalen, Soft Airplane
Just when you think that the album’s going to be an intimate experience between just you and Chad VanGaalen, slowly he starts cranking up the volume, changing your opinion of the path the album will take little by little. Then track five, “Bare Feet On Wet Griptape,” comes on, and you think, “Okay — this guy knows how to rock.”
Soft Airplane is Chad VanGaalen’s third full-length album released on Sub Pop, and the Canadian singer/songwriter’s come a long way since the days when he would record hundreds of hours of songs on a 4-track in his bedroom. The songs on this album were all written around the same time period, as opposed to being collected together from the many songs VanGaalen has recorded. Soft Airplane was recorded in his basement, which gives it the feel of his older work but also adds a new sophistication.
VanGaalen often gets compared to the likes of Neil Young and The Flaming Lips; he’s got a unique voice and hits some really high notes. In my mind, I was kind of reminded of Bright Eyes, albeit a louder, more rock/pop version. I think the album is a work of genius, one that I can listen to over and over again and always notice new things I hadn’t heard before. Also, I can listen to it again and again and not get tired of it. I love that VanGaalen draws and designs all of his cover art, to boot — the cover of Soft Airplane is sure to catch your eye in any record store.
I love the diversity of the songs on this album, and they all blend together so well and seem strategically placed. The album starts out with the acoustic ballad “Willow Tree,” a beautiful song that makes you feel like you’re in the same room as VanGaalen and are feeling the exact same emotions that he is feeling. As the album progresses, it slowly gets more electronics-based, adding different elements into each song. It brings out some pop elements, goes back to the acoustic, and then ends with a heavy electronic song, “Frozen Energon,” with no lyrics. Believe me, though, the album doesn’t even need lyrics to end it. The music says it all.
Soft Airplane is an experience. Guitar, drum beats, synthesizers, xylophones, accordions, distortion, and much more are all used on the album. One song will be heavy with synths, another will be acoustic, while on others you can really hear the xylophone. It’s a unique, entertaining experience.
I honestly have no complaints about this album. I think it’s amazing; one of my new favorite albums. It’s pretty music. Some tracks make you want to sit and just listen, while others provide good background music and other tracks make you want to get up and dance.