[12 March 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Sunset Park is an undoubtedly ambitious new record from Australia’s the Aerial Maps. The hour-plus record seeks to span across the band’s home country, capturing as much of its vast land—and the people that inhabit it—as much as possible. They do so through big, spacious compositions and spoken-word narratives coated with a light, confessional whisper. It can work, on the sweet exhaustion and detailed storytelling of “The Things that Make You Happy” or the jangling pop of “Salvation Road”, the album’s catchiest songs. In those moments, you see the vision the band had, and the promise of Sunset Park in the mix of deadpan male vocals with siren-like female vocals, in the thick beds of guitar. Unfortunately, much of the album fails to realize that promise. The tense anger of “How Dark is the Night” doesn’t feel as natural as the subtler textures. The new-wave dance music of “The Border Towns” feels thin and undercooked, and the nine-minute trudging soundscape of “Beer Glorious Beer” may jump around surprisingly, but it also wears out its welcome quickly. The scope of Sunset Park is awfully impressive, and the musicianship often top notch, but by the end of the long journey that is this album, there aren’t enough memorable points to look back on, to remember where you’ve been, or what you’ve heard.