Review – “In The Pines” – AroarA

reviewed by Laura Stanley aroara3

When one physically goes in the pines, it is a unique experience. The sights, smells, and tactility of the forest can be overwhelming and with uncertainties kneaded into the corners of the land, an eerie psychological space is created. In their own exploration In The Pines, AroarA – the husband and wife duo made up of Andrew Whiteman (Broken Social Scene/Apostle of Hustle) and Ariel Engle – mirror these exact feelings in a very textured first full-length record.

Inspired by the book of poetry, with the same name, by American poet Alice Notley in which she writes about a women undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C and the adjoining psychological struggles, AroarA have done their own translation of Notley’s work in a mixture of music styles with adept creativity.

Opening In The Pines is the warm piano sounds of “#14.” (All of the 9 songs are titled by numbers but not in the order in which they appear on the record. The missing numbers are featured on AroarA’s self-titled EP released earlier this year) As Engle’s soaring vocals take charge, Engle actually does the bulk of the vocal work for the album, the warmth of the beginning’s piano is juxtaposed in the chorus as she passionately sings out, “I was born to be your poet!” Interspersed by the stray sounds of a church bell and more of an “indie-folk” style of music, “#14” is ultimately one of the more accessible songs from In The Pines, setting the landscape for the album.

Though featuring a similar warm sound pallet, the following track “#7” is fast-paced and moveable, the shadows moving along the forest floor, if you will. Although Engle stays as the primary vocalist, Whiteman ushers out the track as it slows down with an eerie sounding string addition.

The disorder in “#10” adds to the chaotic psychological elements of the record but is then followed by the ominous and quiet sounds of “#3.” In a substantial transformation from one song to the next, AroarA moves from an upbeat guitar heavy number to an instrumentally sparse track in which Engle and thunderous background noises are the main focus. Maybe in another situation the sudden change would seem like an awkward moment for a record, but because of the cohesive theme of In The Pines as a whole, AroarA is able to make it work.

The high power “#12” shakes off the reverie induced by some of the previous numbers and introduces two of the strongest songs to end In The Pines. With Whiteman taking over main vocals, he weaves listeners in and out of the woodland and into a thankful, momentary, clarity. In a very organic, and creepy, – at one point Whiteman begins to whisper rather than sing – ending, “#9” elevates AroarA’s artistic triumph, In The Pines, to new heights.

In The Pines is available through the AroarA website and iTunes.

Top Tracks: “#14,” “#12,” “#9”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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