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Designed initially as a solo creative outlet for singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Bruno, AWOLNATION is a unique mix of genres and a blend of electronic synths with live instruments. Their first album ‘Megalithic Symphony’ (2011) soared with hits like ‘Sail’ and ‘Not Your Fault.’ Having just released their second album ‘Here Come The Runts’, the pressure was on for AWOLNATION to keep its creative edge.
Let’s talk about ‘Handyman’, the single AWOLNATION released before their album late last year. It was more acoustic than some of Bruno’s previous material, a gentler introduction to their unique sound perhaps. This track’s highlight is its seamless switch between the soulful acoustic moments and the pop-ballad style choruses, made with booming instrumentation to emphasise the tracks central metaphor of ‘fixing’ a relationship. By contrast, ‘Passion’ and ‘Miracle Man’ seem far more upbeat, more characteristic of their recognisable style, and more stylistic of their fusion between live and electronic sounds. Both of these tracks have the right level of repetition, making them memorable but not laborious. For this reason, they would fit as songs for soundtracks, in that there is the right mixture of exciting energy and an ability to work as atmospheric background music.
‘Stop That Train’ is worth a mention, as the final, 6-minute track on the album. Its length allows it to have well developed, contrasting sections, all based on the first section’s material. In particular, the middle section works well with a nice arrangement between a solo, clean guitar and an agitated string section, before falling into a more rock-style moment reminiscent of Bruno’s work in ‘Home Town Hero’.
The overall feel of the album is that there is something for everyone, between acoustic singer-songwriter vibes, electronic pop style interludes interspersed with their more experimental pieces. An example of the latter would be the title track ‘Here Come the Runts’, which switches between heavily distorted guitar and ethereal choral moments, infused with reverb and delay. There are frequent alterations in tempo as well as overall feel, so this track almost acts as a representation of the album itself. This constant mixture of styles and sounds, and in trying to make something for everyone, it seems to make the collection of songs less coherent. Saying that, for such an eclectic mix, it is well collated, with tracks like ‘A Little Luck and A Couple of Dogs’ as a short acoustic number offering a moment of contrast between two bigger, bolder tracks.
There is a sense that maybe Bruno knew the album could never live up to the records sales of ‘Sail’, so the album attempts to incorporate a little bit of everything. In doing so, it stretches itself a bit thin. There are some excellent tracks, as mentioned above, but will any of them stand the test of time or will AWOLNATION remain a one hit wonder? With any luck, it’ll become a sleeper success like some of their last album and with some time and repeated listens, the album will make it.
‘Here Come The Runts’ is out now, via Red Bull Records.