The long awaited, highly anticipated full length new release from Chicago Shoegaze outfit, Airiel is almost upon us. If you are anything like me, you have already preordered a limited-edition swirl colored copy on vinyl and have been counting down the days until you have it in your hands. I cannot wait to finally be able to place it carefully on the turntable, drop the needle, and to pour over the liner contents while I listen. As a midwestern US super fan, I have been fortunate enough to catch a few of these new songs live, such as an early version of “Red Car” that was performed at the 2015 Kalama-Shoegazer. If you follow the band, you have been thrilled with every preview released, as the Soundcloud version of “Cloudburst” was my favorite track of 2016, and the video for “This is Permanent” looks like something many of us would have clicked through in the mid 90’s during 120 minutes, perhaps stopping and saying; “Who are these guys and why I haven’t I heard of them before?” Airiel is one of those bands that we, in the Shoegaze community absolutely covet and wonder just how and why they aren’t as big as the likes of other Shoegaze staples, such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse, and Slowdive. I’m still searching for the answer to that question, as I believe they have remained perhaps even more consistent and relevant than all of those bands put together. Airiel somehow survived the dark days of Shoegaze underground when it was all but forgotten. That is when I discovered them, right before the resurgence, with luck enough to see them play with Chapterhouse and Ulrich Schnauss at Lincoln Hall. (At the time Chapterhouse claimed it was to be their last tour ever. If the powers that be see this, pretty please; someone make that untrue in the near future.) But enough of me establishing my “street cred” as a fan and knowledgeable source, let’s get to why this is already on my list for best albums of 2017.
The album starts with the scorcher, “This is Permanent”. If Airiel truly want to be known for their given tag line; “It’s loud, it’s pretty, you can dance to it.”; this track makes good on that promise. Jeremy Wrenn’s voice floats purposefully over the perfect melding of blissed out reverb and fuzz with the guitars, reaching an audio concoction that is less noise and more so a soul warming purr, a feat that I have yet to have seen done by anyone as masterfully as Andrew Marrah can. This track will most definitely end up ranking as one of the best title tracks for any album, as it absolutely sets the perfect tone for what’s to come within the whole of the album.
“Cloudburst” is a catchy ear worm of a song, that gets you hooked with every component within the track. Guitar chords that are floating, masterfully plucked, and peppered with the perfect effects open the song, just before the drums and bass kick in. This is in complete opposition to the way the opening track, “This is Permanent” is structured, and for good reason; here we see the flip side of the Airiel coin, the Dreampop “tail” to “This is Permanent ’s” Shoegaze head. Jeremy spins a yarn of a lover whom you can’t exactly tell is frustrated or elated, and if the relationship being described is beginning or ending. Many of Airiel’s tracks seem have an all or nothing, unrequited yet optimistic love theme, and this is no exception. “Don’t go out tonight. I hate to see you go.” Where ever those pleas are coming from, it’s so deep and primal that it doesn’t matter.
“Your Lips, my Mouth” has echoes of “You Against the Rest of Us” but this entry into the Airiel song book is a bit more sunny, exiting from the darker elements in the aforementioned track from the “Kid Games” EP. Andrew Marrah’s shimmering guitar waxes and wanes perfectly with layered effects that somehow always match Jeremy’s vocals, and it fits perfectly as the album builds the narrative of the album as a whole.
Upon first listen to the title track; “Molton Young Lovers” as I was trying to organize my thoughts and critique the track, I completely got swept up in the piece itself. I couldn’t look for any nuance or structure, as I was completely transported into the song. The song absolutely brought me to tears. Fans of Ariel are used to their epic sweeping sound with romantic undertones but this absolutely take the cake. It’s short. It’s simple. It’s perfect. Magic. Jeremy delivers to his fans as he states; “Cause I know, I know, I know……you always want this.”
“Mind Furnace” is a dreamy, darker piece and once again, I must comment on how well this transition into a different type of sound works to keep the listener engaged and invested in the overall story of “Molten Young Lovers”. It’s that desperate moment in a relationship where we are overcome with our own doubts, regardless if they are founded in reality or not.
The next track, “Sharon Apple” is a well-known classic to established fans, which originally comes from the Winks and Kisses EP. This version sounds better than ever, as it was reworked and re-recorded for the album. Again, this is just a testament to the dedication of Airiel has a band continually improving upon their arsenal of sound. They could have easily used a previous version but they chose not to do so, and the track and album stand stronger together for that decision. This song was developed before Andrew Marrah had joined in the ensemble, which was approximately the end of 2009 or early in 2010; and his additions can absolutely be heard in this version. “Heaven knows I’ve learned a thing or two.” It seems as if Airiel truly have, another promise made good by the band.
“How I love to play these game with you…” croons the enigmatic Jeremy Wrenn in “Song of You”. This is another gorgeous track that floats just somewhere between reality and a dreamscape. I often feel transported back to my bright eyed optimistic teenage self when listening to Airiel, and this song is another device to transport me back to that specific moment in time and person that I was interested in, when I felt Angela Chase looking at Jordan Catalano.
“Keep You” brings us into the reality of problems in a relationship. Things get hard, we make mistakes. We must own up to it and say that we are sorry. This song tells that story. Jeremy provides the details ending with the sentiment; “I should know better, but I can’t close my mouth.” I mean, who hasn’t been there?
“Red Car” hints that the apology didn’t work (and perhaps was never properly delivered upon further review of the content of “Keep You”). “Nobody sleeps tonight.”; is something that I can connect to, having a few to many of those tumultuous relationships where you almost break up several times before that final impending death blow hits. “Until it’s over. Over and over…”
I have to admit, I have been that girl in “You Sweet Talker”. Those final days of a failed relationship are often fake and sugar coated to try to and keep things civil, but it’s all a façade. “You take what you want and you go.” And I wondered why that certain ex thought we had a chance of getting back together…
“The Painkillers” is the perfect ending to the “Molten Young Lovers” story. It gives us a recap, and is a bit blistering but has an optimism as well. That first one might always cut the deepest, but it makes us stronger.
I don’t know if I can even sum up my feelings upon completion of listening to “Molten Young Lovers”. As a long time fan, I have loved the bits and pieces that have come from Airiel, prior to this second full length release. “Kid Games” feels like a primer to this piece, and will listen to it along with “MYL” (as I have taken to calling it while reviewing the piece) once my copy arrives and I can place in on my turntable. While there are stand out singles here, the album tells a story. It takes the listener on a complete journey, and leaves us wanting more. The precision in which this album is put together leaves me at a loss for words. It’s just that damn good. We have been rewarded for waiting patiently, my friends.