Record of the Day #9 – Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, Bittersweet

snapseed-15I don’t buy many seven-inch records, and I’ve wondered often about why that might be. I think it’s a matter of quantity, knowing perhaps that I’d rather sit down and listen to a record for a full half hour than for only ten or fifteen minutes. I like the size of a twelve-inch record also and feel that sometimes more craft goes into creating one. I’m not trying to contest the legitimacy of a seven-inch record, no way, but I’d rather have a full-length than an EP, as much as I see the merit of an EP release. It’s the same way I never buy singles, and instead just wait for the full album to come out. That being said though, there’s a definite brevity to the seven-inch record – in that it offers a short, strong selection of songs. If in a rush but wanting to absorb some music, the seven-inch is perfect. In terms of singles, it saves you having to direct the needle on a full LP to find the song you want. There’s something pleasing in terms of a seven-inch aesthetic – it’s compact, neat, condensed almost. They do the job, for sure, I just don’t own many of them.

Released: 2016                         Label: Hopeless Records
Variant: Tour press /250        Purchased from: The man himself.

When I do buy a 7″ record I like to make it one that matters; this Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties EP matters to me. The side project of The Wonder Years frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell, this three-track 7″ is the follow-up to 2014 debut LP We Don’t Have Each Other. That LP chronicled a year in the life of Campbell’s Aaron West moniker, and this EP serves as a ‘chapter two’ type of release, picking the narrative back up and continuing it. It finds West in New York, looking for his estranged wife and getting generally introspective in the process. I liked We Don’t Have Each Other immensely (read my review here), but I like this EP marginally better. It has a more full-band feel to it even though it’s primarily an acoustic release. It’s a little bit louder, more full-bodied, and I find the lyrics to be slightly stronger. I think my firm familiarity with the debut helped as well; I was able to treat Bittersweet as a sequel of sorts, letting it grow over time.

img_0991I think I value Bittersweet also because of the memories I associate with it. When I first listened to We Don’t Have Each Other it was because I needed to review it. When I first listened to Bittersweet I was on holiday. I was also in New York, just like West was, except that I was cycling along the west side of Manhattan – by the Hudson River – and not knocking on what used to my wife’s door but was now that of a stranger. West was battling his demons, and I was only battling the breeze whipping off of the water. I associate that day with a feeling of total freedom, happy to wander around New York City without a care in the world.

I had that same abandon three days later when I managed to see Campbell perform as Aaron West at The Sinclair, a venue near Harvard University in Boston. I remember singing every word to both West records, along with every other person in the room it seemed. I remember that sense of community, how convincing Campbell was as a narrator and story-teller. I remember being particularly stoked about seeing the excellent Allison Weiss open the night. Campbell played the three songs on Bittersweet as an encore, and I tied up them up there on the spot with that moment in Boston and that day in New York earlier in the week. When I listen to Bittersweet now I think about New York, about riding the G Train and cycling by the river. I think of that night in Boston after exploring Harvard and wishing that I was American. I don’t think so much about meeting Campbell before the show and asking him to sign the tour variant of this record, but I guess the other memories resonate with more importance.

<- Record of the Day #8

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