Friday, November 4, 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: Rich Aucoin - We're All Dying To Live

by Mark Gillis

At first glance it appears that Rich Aucoin wants this album to be his Illinois. The massive tracklist of 22 songs and a cover featuring a kid in a Superman costume are all parallels to Illinois. Even though “We’re All Dying To Live” doesn’t touch the Sufjan Stevens classic (few albums do), it still delivers a unique brand of baroque pop meets disco dance party that I can’t say I’ve heard in many other places.

One interesting thing about this album is that Rich seeked out the help of over 500 musicians while recording it over a three year period. With a timeline like that and a cast of characters including Joel Plaskett, Jenn Grant and Dan Mangan, you would probably guess that that this album sounds completely over the top and larger than life. That’s what I guessed before I’d even listened to this album and I was certainly right.

The album starts off on the baroque pop side of things with a couple of tracks that are what I’d call slow burners. They start off quiet but just become more and more cacophonous as time goes on. By the time you get to the end of the tracks they just explode into all out jams of piano, horns and strings, which sounds really awesome.

During the middle part of the album Rich explores the electronic dance side of things with songs like ‘Brian Wilson is A.L.i.V.E’ and ‘P:U:S:H’. Both these songs feature a big beefy sounding synth that packs a huge punch and makes these tracks a couple of highlights on the album for me. Rich does still keep some of the baroque pop flavour around but most of the songs on the album after the first few do have a distinct electronic feel to them, even if it is just a humming in the background.

The album hits a high point for me with the song ‘Watching, Wishing, Waiting’ which has a cool blues rock feel to start the song and then breaks into an all out arena rock classic after is settles into a groove for a little while.

From this point on I’d say the all the elements of baroque pop, dance music and arena rock are mixed pretty evenly. In the last few tracks I even hear some marimba, which is pretty cool. The last track is called ‘500 People Talking’, is quite literally just a bunch of people talking. I thought something really cool would be done with it but it just seems to be bits of broken conversations. I guess it was added to the end as a tribute to the over 500 musicians that helped contribute to the album.

Even though the album has lots of varying styles I still feel that it flows very nicely. There are tons of minute long interludes that lead in and out of tracks to help with the cohesiveness and honestly just really make it difficult for me to differentiate one track from the next. Which is why I’d say this album is a lot more gratifying of a listen as a whole rathr than just picking a few tracks and playing those.

One other thing that I find really cool about this album is that many of the songs have incredibly easy to sing-a-long to choruses. It makes me think that a lot of these songs would translate amazingly to a live setting because they lend themselves so easily to crowd involvement with some very easy to sing/chant lyrics.

So in short, if you want something with a mix of baroque pop and electronic music that just has a generally big feel to it, then you’ll probably want to at least give this a listen and see what you think of it yourself.

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