The passage of time offers perspective, allowing one to balance knee-jerk reactions and first impressions with understanding that accounts for deeper details and a better appreciation for where our experiences and memories stand within context of the bigger picture. In 2017 acclaimed artist (Poor Old Lu, Rose Blossom Punch, Fair, Blank Books, solo) and producer ( Jeremy Camp, Story Of The Year, Newfound Glory, and a slew of Tooth & Nail Records artists) Aaron Sprinkle released two notably diverse projects: March’s solo LP REAL LIFE and November’s EP1, an EP from a band project/collaboration with brother Jesse Sprinkle (Poor Old Lu, Demon Hunter, Dead Poetic, Vekora) called Blank Books.
For many familiar with Sprinkle and his work with bands like Demon Hunter, Poor Old Lu, Anberlin, and Emery, REAL LIFE unloaded an exclusively electronic, drum machine, synth-pop feel that more than a few were caught off guard by. His 2013 release WATER AND GUNS did forshadow a slight lean toward a more electronic sound, but, it wasn’t quite the leap that REAL LIFE turned out to be.
I remember, at first listen, feeling a bit dizzy, wondering, and not quite sure how I felt about what I was hearing. I’ve always had a truly deep appreciation for good guitar riffs and there weren’t any to be found. Even so, Sprinkle’s instincts as a composer and producer, matched with his voice — an iconic instrument in it’s own right, won’t let the listener turn away after just a passing glance. His pop hook magic reaches out like a swift-growing vine and tightens it’s hold on the listener with each note, creating a stronger allure that keeps the listener coming back to the album for more.
Too often a price is paid at the expense of integrity and depth in pop music as sonically appealing and, yet, experimental as REAL LIFE is. But, what, at first, seems like a simplification of the texture and tact that typically characterizes an Aaron Sprinkle release reveals itself to be much more within the context of the album as a whole. Through the varied guest contributions of Elle Puckett (Poema, Eisley) on “Invincible,” Sherry Dupree-Bemis (Eisley) and Max Bemis (Say Anything) on “Real Life,” Matty Mullins (Memphis May Fire) on “Someday” and Stephanie Skipper on “I Don’t Know Who You Are,” and his own voice, Sprinkle is able to masterfully weave a sophisticated tapestry of pop, avant-garde sound, emotion, and passion that makes REAL LIFE a sure victory. REAL LIFE is a sonic, electronic cornucopia through which Sprinkle threads lyrics that, while measured and looped, still conjure the poetic imagery and wields articulate metaphors that the listener is invited to plug their own stories into.
For every different beep, chirp, and syncopated beat on REAL LIFE, the debut BLANK BOOKS release, EP1, unfurls a driving, persistent, thick, guttural, feedback-laced, all-out rock riff that, more than satisfying, borders on glorious! What, as a listener, I grew to love on REAL LIFE is balanced on EP1 by instantaneous agreement between the sound waves entering my ears and the deepest parts of my rock and roll soul.
On personal favorite tracks such as “Find My Way Again,” “Breathing Underwater,” and “Lean In,” Sprinkle expertly toys with the contrasting dynamics of his agile pop voice, articulately placed sound-pauses, his own heavyweight guitar riffs, and the full-impact and powerful punch of his brother Jesse’s massive drum presence. Each song is a layer of distinctively different, totally complimentary sounds that, combined together, square the strength and power of each song to an exponential level. Accented with some well-placed pop-inspired BGV’s by both Aaron and Jessie (particularly on “Lean In,”), EP1 provides a consistent thread of sweat, vitality, and passion from the first track to the last. It is a collection of songs that fails only in the limitations native to an EP release — too few songs. Aside from its brevity, EP1 is an all-out home run!
Passion and legitimate artistic integrity are cornerstones that provide a firm foundation for both REAL LIFE and EP1 to stand upon against the test of time going forward. Considering the fact that both projects were created around the same time and released in the same year, and the stark contrast in respective styles, Aaron Sprinkle’s high level of accomplishment as a creative force — writer, player, singer, producer — goes without saying.
What doesn’t add up, though, is how EP1 has stayed so far under the radar. While Aaron Sprinkle, himself, has stated that he has been blown away by the positive response to the Blank Books release there simply isn’t that much media attention surrounding the release. Granted, Aaron and Jesse purposefully released the album under the cover of night with mere midnight-hour social media announcements and little other fanfare, EP1 deserves a far greater audience than it apparently has so far. REAL LIFE, released by Tooth & Nail Records, has done well maintaining a presence on the Billboard charts, as it should. EP1 deserves some acclaim, too, for sure.
Get EP1 by BLANK BOOKS on
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Get REAL LIFE by AARON SPRINKLE on
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