Aspen Pales first came to our attention during last year’s Kickstart competition with their entry ‘Blue’. Since then there has been little activity from the Rostrevor based band, aside from the odd show and teaser video. After a long wait the band released their self-titled debut album at the very end of last year.
It’s immediately obvious on listening to Aspen Pales that the band have spent a lot of time perfecting this. It evident all throughout the album – from the opening tones of ‘Whales (Interlude)’ to the closer, the folky ‘Only Love’. Care and attention has been paid to the sounds on the album, which is obviously so important to what Aspen Pales are trying to do.
Showing a self-awareness that can escape many artists, Aspen Pales describe themselves as ‘atmospheric alternative rock,’ a description which is certainly fitting. The artists that spring to mind here are the likes of Bon Iver or Radiohead. For Aspen Pales like those bands before them, swells of reverb are king. The reverb and delay, so prominent on the guitars give the album a cold, wintry feel akin to, say, Modest Mouse’s ‘The Moon & Antarctica’.
There’s a fair bit of ground covered on these eight tracks, in fact even the final three cover plenty of tones themselves. The brilliantly named ‘Death House Chaplain’ has some big rocking swells of sound while the following track ‘Rumours’ is a pretty, intimate piano song. Then ‘Only Love’ brings a folk and country influence to the table with slide guitar filling out the track. The track doesn’t stick to the simple, stripped back sound in the verse, rather it blooms with lead guitar crescendos.
These crescendos of noise are used throughout the album, and sometimes their presence detracts slightly. They are certainly a big part of the sound the band was going for but the highlights here are the more restrained tracks. ‘Blue’ is deceptively simple, just count the number of times vocalist Connor McGowan sings ‘Blue’ in the track. McGowan’s vocals are an important element to this album, often treated to their own significant level of reverb. ‘Blue’ is one of the best and most surprising tracks to come from a Northern Irish band last year. Certainly it was Chordblossom’s first introduction to the Rostrevor four-piece and a memorable one with the band making the longlist for last year’s Kickstart competition. ‘Blue’ is quite simply a gorgeous track with an infectious groove, catchy vocals and perfect production. Few Northern Irish tracks released last year can match ‘Blue’ for me. The other highlight on this strong debut is ‘Bare Bones’. Sounding like an ‘OK Computer’ offshoot it brings even more groove, with a nice guitar lines and an even better bassline.
Whilst listening to this album, it is so easy to forget that this is Aspen Pales’ debut. A first release from the band as it is such a fine, well put together album. This debut brings the wintry feel of the name to life. It is really the kind of work more people should be taking notice of.
◀ STANDOUT ⁞ Blue ▶
◀ SOUNDS LIKE ⁞ Bon Iver | Radiohead ▶