Aberfeldy is one of those glorious little bands in the shadow of their countrymen -- it must be tough to make lovely pop music when you have to compete with Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura, and even similar-sounding bands like the Magic Numbers.
But Aberfeldy hold their own with "Do Whatever Turns You On," their follow-up to twee masterpiece "Young Forever." This time around, the band tries a steelier approach to their music, with more polish, without losing the bittersweet charm that made "Young Forever" such an entrancing pop album.
It opens with "If Then," a glockenspiel pop tune of irresistable simplicity and upbeat that harkens back to their early sound. Just call it a bridge between the first album and this one. "If you stick with me/then there will definitely be happy ever after," Riley Briggs assures us, also adding that, "if the world gets on without us, fine!"
That sound trails over into the second song, but then Briggs and Co. explore some newer sounds, like some cheesy 1980s retro melodies (are those Devo influences I hear?), solid power-pop, soft songs that explode into masses of synth, and summery, sunny, 60s-style pop songs that just avoid being sugary sweet, by having dark, sardonic lyrics.
In this album, Aberfeldy has lost a bit of their lo-fi quirk, and gained new recording polish. Oh yeah, and the cover has the band, and not lions in flagrante delicto. But fortunately, neither of those things have the slightest effect on how delightful "Do Whatever Turns You On" ends up being.
The tunes are kept alive with shining keyboard, explosions of synth, loads of shimmering glockenspiel and enchanting harmonies. It's a very summery album, at least on the musical scale, although they do dip into downbeat territory by the final song. It doesn't fit the rest of the album, but every song up until then will be addictive.
The lyrics are what keep the pop confections from seeming too sunny. There's a the cynical streak that runs just under the surface, with Briggs taking little diggs at the easily successful, as well as meditations on love, disillusionment, individuality, and people who waste their own talents.
There's even a dig at retro ("You dress as if/it was the 1970s/you say, `that's heavy'/but you don't know what it means!"), heavy on the irony, and a defiant proclaimation about talent ("The talent I was given/to keep inside would be criminally wrong...") It adds a bittersweet edge to straightforwardly sweet music, and adds wonderful depth to their sound.
Addictive and infectious, Aberfeldy tries out some new musical styles with solid results. Do whatever turns you on!