Aaron Skiles
Wreckage From The Fire

Indie Alt-Country For The Truck Ride to Catch the Glistenin’ Californian Surf

New to me and drawn in by the atmospheric front cover, I was bracing myself for a dark, moody, broody cluster of songs.
How ecstatic I am to be proved spectacularly wrong!
One seriously uplifting release: here we have Californian surf-infused Indie ‘90s Rock with a high tide of Punk lapping in.
It’s different, intriguing and gets deeper under your skin with each spin.
The album bursts open with the surging instrumental ‘Quarendream’: crashing drums, rocky-powered guitar fingers and cool harmonies of oohs and ahhs to layer the track with a surreal ocean breeze. With an abrupt ending worthy of any riotous punk single, this track replicates the overtures of yesteryear, communicating in less than 2 minutes exactly what we can expect from this second solo release.
It neatly leads into ‘Come With Me’, a request to follow Aaron Skiles on his new post-pandemic path. Formerly part of San Francisco’s indie alt-country band Bourbon Therapy, the fact that they have called time for the moment by no way means this artist has isolated himself.
A massive influence has come from joining forces with Drive-By Trucker’s Matt Patton.
This track, with ‘70s rock style power strum riffs, deftly and blistering at times belted out by Taylor Hollingworth (Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band, Dead Fingers), almost gravitates towards Deep Purple/Steppenwolf territory but vocals full of indie attitude divert it to an altogether different place.

And then we have ‘A Triumph Of Three Chords’, energetically stamping all that is fabulous about this album in one fell swoop. Despite the title, I can only imagine a huge bucketful of cleverness to engineer such a perfectly catchy, up-tempo, ripples-of-fun pop song. It gives you the sweetly naïve ‘60’s beach vibe vocals with the added brilliance of Drive-By Trucker bandmate Jay Gonzalez’s standout piano work that skips on the swell and fills out the song delightfully. It’s full of joy and hope for better times:

I want to sing for all my friends
Melodies for brightenin’ up their day
Hope that things are gonna change
Dawn on darkness fallen in the way”

False endings, playfully teasing in a live environment, are too few and far between on recordings for my liking. Oh boy this one builds up to a tidal wave of rousing piano and guitar in unison, making this my joint favourite track on the album.
At the midway stage, the mood gets intimate and ‘Before You Go’ lays the artist bare, grounding us with a deeply personal song. Although the subject matter is hard hitting, recounting the loss of a friend to suicide way back at Military College, there is an optimism too: a sense of emotional processing and healing, especially when we learn that after trying to write about it for 10 years, the Pandemic was the catalyst to enable Mr Skiles to finally put pen-to-paper.
It’s gently paced, words belted out with raw emotions and you can hear the cracks in the vocals making it even more touching; especially when accompanied by an atmospheric drum march beat which escorts us through his story:

‘’Feeling like my failing’s why you’re not here
But we all know you made your mind to go
It’s hard to keep perspective, so young and self-reflective Razing peaks down to valleys, hitting low
I can see that you’re crying out for something Wish it was a something that I hold
Many steps of those flights make up the staircase I’m offering my hand before you go”

The rollercoaster pace of this album means next we are flung right back into another feel-good hook-driven stomper, the first single ‘Love And Guilt’.
Plotting the tricky path of a long-term relationship, it contains another one of those aforementioned surprises…… an Alt-Country rock guitar teamed with spacey synthesised keys to add an altogether galactic dimension.
With endearing vocals, it gets inside my head after just one play and deservedly bags the joint top slot. The album plays out with a couple of rawer surf punk songs, ‘On My Own’ features drummer and engineer Bronson Tew playing lead guitar after apparently recording a demo late at night to show Taylor. Liked so much by all, it was concluded pointless to re-record. This shows the collaboration and respect between the players, instrumental to the feel of the album. Aaron Skiles has emerged from his own traumas, surrounded himself with fresh support and inspiration and salvaged something really positive and original.
A good time to jump onboard as he embraces this new adventure.

Review by Anita Joyce
Released April 22nd 2022


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