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Aaron Stout

Queens Live in Caskets

(Monotreme; US: 30 Oct 2007; UK: Available as import)

Songwriter Aaron Stout traipsed the globe like a latter-day Woody Guthrie to make this album, borrowing friends’ living rooms and basements as he went. Still there’s an eerie glow to these minimally accompanied folk songs, as if their traditional structures have been irradiated with a rare isotope and mutated, very slightly, into something strange. The album starts with its heaviest elements, the backbreaking slow beat and space-echoing vibrato of “The Coronation”. The guitar is murky with distortion, the drum machine industrially emphatic, and yet there’s a lonely fragility at the core of this song. That sense of loss and disconnection comes forward in the album’s far more folky mid-section, starting with acoustic blues “Space Station” and continuing on the melancholy, harmonica-burred “Song for Jaclyn”. “Fountain of Youth”, maybe the prettiest song on the disc, is cut through with a high, lonely whistle and embellished by uncredited female harmonies. Soft, gentle, almost a lullaby, the song slips in and out of focus against a background of folk-picked guitar. “Story of My Life” returns to the beat-boxy rocking-ness of the first track, electro-squiggles and cymbal hisses nearly overwhelming the verse. That verse, by the way, is the song equivalent of Seinfeld’s “show about nothing”, a rhythmically driven chant about random things that happened—a brush with poison ivy, a chance encounter with a Serbian captain, car troubles, and a conversation with a tic-afflicted mechanic. The events are so ordinary and recounted with such deadpan inflection that the song becomes surreal and otherworldly. Aaron Stout is the folksinger who’s not from around here… twisting ordinary life into strange, unrecognizable shapes.

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