Sunday, November 25, 2018

Albums of the Year # 31 Air Waves - Warrior

From July:

Air Waves third album  Warrior, (which came out a couple of months back), is a delicious lo-fi Indie treat with a great deal more ambition and scope than that tag, (as appropriate as I think it is), might imply. Its cover features a photograph of Air Waves Nicole Schneit's father Martin from 1970 standing with a bicycle wearing an alarming looking gas mask adorned with a daisy. It's a really arresting and implicitly political image and the record it represents is just as proud and distinctive a statement.

Starting off on Home with the lines, 'Would you like to ride with me. All the way home..', over a quite beautifully simple guitar coda, it gets going as it means to continue. Then on to Morro Bay where 'you can find us in our room. Listening to our favourite tunes'. It's all homely but quietly impressive and reminded me of the DIY approach of Young Marble Giants masterpiece Colossal Youth for some reason

The album proceeds from there in stately fashion. Each track mellow, tuneful and considered. Air Waves took their name from the title of a Guided By Voices song and that's not insignificant. That band, like Young Marble Giants and many of the other early eighties electronic reference points that are dotted around Warrior were determinedly operating under the radar, and the end result is all the more impressive in terms of its quiet but steely ambition and achievement.

Partially inspired by the diagnosis of Schneit's mother with fallopian cancer, the record is a statement of loving solidarity peppered throughout with sexual identity and pride. In Schneit's words: 'I want these songs to be heard by people in my queer community but also by anyone that wants to feel strong, powerful and included.' And that resolve to speak both to her own people but also make her voice heard by a broader audience is impressively realised. This deserves to be heard.

Like so many statements from the American Indie community over the last ten years or so, this minds me of the sensibility of Juno and its soundtrack and of Juno herself but perhaps a few years further down the line, having dispensed with her puppy fat and switched her gender alliance.

And then at Track 9 and the title track the record shifts a gear and hits paydirt. This is very much an anthem of pride for the dispossessed and marginalised. A mission statement every bit as precious as The Smiths, Riot Girl and Le Tigre used to make them. Roping in Kevin Morby, a long time favourite of this blog it chugs on with breathtaking momentum. It's a small wonder in itself but by no means breaking the flow of an album that is now utterly into its stride.

A few tracks later the album takes the bell and sprints to the tape. Warrior is a series of messages of quiet  melodic sophistication that coalesce into a glorious and defiant statement. A small, but perfectly formed masterpiece. Straight out of Brooklyn, as if you didn't guess.

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