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Skating Club - The Unfound Sound


Rolling Stone

For his third release under the Skating Club banner, Aubrey Anderson marries the DIY simplicity of 2001's Skating Club debut with the band-produced ballast of last year's Bugs & Flowers. The languid sway of "The Long Hot July" sets the pace for his low-key melancholy. The easy-voiced Bostonian wrote, produced and performed the rainy-day disc mostly by himself, with Club co-founders Bruce MacFarlane (drums) and Colin Rhinesmith (Rhodes) barely aboard. Sinewy guitar and Sean Drinkwater's lazy organ help flesh out the melodic title track, and Anderson pulls brightness from woe in songs like "San Francisco" (boosted by the chorus "Don't stay home, I don't blame you") and "Count to Ten," where he muses, "I want to know your hiding places." Twinkling layers lend a shoegazer echo to "Headphones and Distance," with its fading mantra "All that distance stands between us." Though he's clearly still searching, Anderson has found a more satisfying sound. --Paul Robicheau



What did Aubrey Anderson (a.k.a. Skating Club) do last summer? Anderson's third album (and Composition 101) final finds the lone songman quietly reveling in the joys of seasons past. Whispery Air Supply-style vocals, loping rhythms, and a gentle, going-nowhere-slow feel make up this essay in slackitude-and if Anderson was any more laid back, he'd fall right on his booty. And that could be disastrous because this rollerboy sounds like he bruises easily when he coos, "It's summertime again, and we're walking hand in hand/But only in my head, because I'm walking by myself" on the bouncy "Summer Time." On his own, the onetime leader of early-'90s combo Difference Engine could've been just another fallen shoegazer, his bloody valentine now a lonely heart left to its own devices, recording everything by himself in his studio. Yet how many recovering dream-rockers have regained their footing as Anderson has? How many make songs as pure and pretty as these, full of luscious, plangent guitar tones and humid, gooey beats? Crooning about making instant coffee and falling in love just as quickly, or singing about searching for beach glass and frolicking in the surf, Anderson somehow makes the most banal Kodak moments fresh again. Regardless of what the cast of Grease-or your English teacher-might tell you, summer lovin' starts here. --Kimberly Chun


Pop Matters

The Skating Club is former Difference Engine member Aubrey Anderson. With his shoe-gazing days behind him, as they are with most bands, Anderson still needed an outlet to get his musical ideas out there. The Skating Club, a place Anderson would drive past routinely, became the inspiration for the band's name. A debut solo album in 2001 was a mish mash of songs collected and amassed over several years. The first album fared quite well, the second album didn't, so now with his third attempt The Unfound Sound, Anderson is back doing things on his own with interesting results.

The opening track, "The Long Hot July", has Anderson sounding like the '70s-era country star Ronnie Milsap if he was starting out today in rock circles. Slow and almost at a snail's pace at times, the song has Anderson's vocals out front driving the tune before the obligatory guitar accents the end of each lyric. "You want to know the person I wanna exorcise?", Anderson sings before a fuzzed out guitar comes in to create a vast, wide-open type of tune. Part soul and part singer-songwriter, it resembles a cross between Michael Penn and Chris Isaak, which creates a haunting bit of lovable pop. "San Francisco" is more straightforward rock fodder that glides along nicely. Here Anderson tries to do his best Art Garfunkel-meets-Elliott Smith impersonation and it's pretty decent. Like the first song, this one is also the type you can nestle into prior to the chorus. The lone complaint I have with the song is how it seems to be gutted by a premature fade out.

Anderson uses a keyboard effectively on the soft and tender title track. The guitar buzz seems an odd complement but it works here for some reason. In no hurry to get the song over with, Anderson seems to align himself with Beck's Mutations album in some respects. But again the idea isn't completely realized as it cuts itself too short after three minutes and change. "Summer Time" tries to recapture that precious Beach Boys breezy feeling but Anderson's timbre is not quite as high to pull it off, making it more of a monotone Brian Wilson cover. The lone track which doesn't quite fit the album's mold is a fine and solid "Pretty Soon" that resembles a cross between the Handsome Family and Matthew Sweet. The effort is perhaps the album's highlight as everything fits together for the greater good. Unfortunately, Anderson wears his heart on his sleeve too early and easily on the darker "Panic and Doubt", a track that could be on Dolorean's Not Exotic record.

One of the more eclectic offerings of the 11 presented is a jerky soul-rock tune entitled "The Spirit of the Stairs" as Anderson brings Ron Sexmith to mind. "I can't move along and I can't forget what I said", he sings on the heartfelt tune. But even this is one-upped by the gorgeous "Beach Tar Footsie", a mid-tempo tune with some electro-like back beat keeping it flowing. If you could envision Primitive Radio Gods with more substance and imagination, this would be a song they would nail. Again, Anderson is in no hurry as background noise and conversation weaves in and out of each headphone, causing some people to think of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The ensuing "Count to Ten" tries the same thing but goes once too often to the musical well, a well that ran dry by the conclusion of "Beach Tar Footsie". A cheesy keyboard introduces "Hope", a folksy song whose title loses all of it before Anderson utters a single word. At times Skating Club has you going in splendid musical circles, but occasionally the songs leave you hoping for just a touch more. --Jason MacNeil



It'd be very easy to accuse Skating Club of having one song repackaged with different titles, since most of this record sounds like a few slightly altered angles on the same slumbering opus. But it's a damn good song, and lead musical architect, Aubrey Anderson, knows how to set you blissfully adrift within the geography of loss and isolation. There might be some Velvet Underground and by extension, Bedhead, floating around in here, but the guitar pacing is so much slower and yet distinct, that it sounds ambered. Anderson's warm plume of a voice kneads the knots out of my shoulders and spreads in such a hushing rush that it always sounds like it's being injected into the track's bloodstream. There were moments, such as the brief infusions of electronic beats, where I saw room for further exploration, but The Unfound Sound hangs well enough whole as it is. --Terry Sawyer


Boston Phoenix

If you'll excuse a terrible pun: the characters populating Skating Club's excellent new The Unfound Sound (Kimchee) all seem to be on thin ice. They're fragile, full of regret and uneasiness, dogged by clouds of doubt as they recount relationship-killing mistakes in numbers like the title tune or do their best to live with the consequences in "Summer Time" and other songs.

The music's a match for those sentiments, full of open spaces and built along the spine of Aubrey Anderson's airy vocal melodies. It's a sonic terra firma that's beautiful yet threatens to crack beneath the pressure of asides like "You're vicious/So am I" in "Pretty Soon." The only aural defense against potential collapse comes with the churn and ring from the guitars of Anderson and Sean T. Drinkwater, which blossom into the mix in pleasing and sometimes unexpectedly snarling ways.

There's a well-developed ęsthetic at play in the tracks on The Unfound Sound, the Boston-based Club's third album and debut on the adventurous Kimchee label that's set for release on November 16. It has precedents in the local quiet-rock outfit Galaxie 500 and the more far-flung Red House Painters, who specialized in lightly sketched complex emotional portraits. Anderson, who essentially is Skating Club, says his songs evolve through a process he calls "creeping production." "They begin with the slow introduction of a theme that usually evolves. I know what the chords will be and the changes, and I usually have a vocal melody. Sometimes I'll do little loops and move the blocks of sound around. The lyrics are just half the picture, so there's an emotional element to how the instruments and vocals fit together that goes beyond either the words or the music. And though I'm usually married to the underlying theme of a song, I sometimes cut whole verses without much compunction."

The relative looseness of Skating Club's live line-up and instincts is in sharp contrast to Anderson's demeanor in the studio, where, he says, "I'm a super control freak." That's both revealed and rewarded in the spare, carefully layered beauty of The Unfound Sound. "But my favorite shows are with people who have never played together. Our recent sets have been more rocking and up-tempo, more pop oriented, which seems appropriate for this album." --Ted Drozdowski


Rasputin Manifesto

There are many different styles of skating, ranging from the smooth, graceful artistry of figure skaters to the powerful aggression of the hockey crowd. Put Aubrey Anderson, the one-man-band behind Boston's Skating Club, in the former category; his music glides and floats, creating an intimate, shimmering sheet of sound that would be easy to dismiss as just another ephemeral shoegazing (or boot-gazing) exercise. Yet the more time one spends with The Unfound Sound, Anderson's third Skating Club outing, the better it gets-not unlike the worn surface of an ice rink towards the end of a session, when the ruts and divots make for a far more interesting skating experience.

The Unfound Sound is more forceful than its predecessors; Anderson starts singing almost at the very beginning of "The Long Hot July," giving that opening track an immediate feel that sustains through its gentle, folksy arrangement and lengthy outro. Dual guitar leads intertwine on "Panic and Doubt," while "The Spirit of the Stairs" has more bite than Anderson usually allows his instrumental arrangements. The out-and-out winner here is "Beach Tar Footsie," which boasts rich keyboards and the album's sturdiest melody and is positioned nicely in front of "Count to Ten," whose droning organ and fuller bottom make for a gripping ambience. Many of these virtues aren't necessarily evident on the first shift, but The Unfound Sound has plenty to discover for those willing to stay on the ice for a while. --Gary Graff


Las Vegas City Life

The setting in which artists compose has a funny way of seeping into their works. Whether they're trying to capture their hometown by placing some distance between them and it, or whether they're trying to imaginatively travel away from their birthplace while creating within it, the sights, sounds and tastes of where they are influences what they're doing. It's unavoidable.

Comprised of one man, Aubrey Anderson, Skating Club's third disc, The Unfound Sound, occupies a strange place in this regard. Anderson recorded all 11 tracks in Boston and, with the exception of one, he did it all by his lonesome. Yet Boston's chilly Northeast winds never make it into any of the songs. Ears are never red with cold; lips are never blistered; hands are never turned into frozen claws. At the same time, Anderson's lazy laments aren't attempts to avoid Boston. It doesn't seem as if Anderson hates the city in the least. But his love for California-like sunshine, sandy white beaches and, most of all, heat pulses through each song.

There's the heat of a campfire on the disc's title track, a lyrically impressionistic, sonically smooth breeze fanning the flames so that they flick out every now and again. Then there's summertime heat captured on the fourth track, the aptly titled "Summertime." Here Anderson's brooding tone washes over the minutiae of life, skimming the ocean's surface, adding ripples to the foam before disappearing beneath a crashing wave. And nowhere is this "it's the little things that count" philosophy more overt than on "San Francisco." The sparingly used drum machine complements Anderson's trip down memory lane, where he touches on everything from the objects of childhood to a pair of shoes kicking up dust on a lonely road as he makes a big move to somewhere.

The Unfound Sound is a delicate blend of avoidance and California dreamin' from what might as well be the other side of the world. --Kevin Capp


The Weekly Planet (Tampa, FL)

Though it's a little jazzier, and a lot more dynamic and electrified, the third full-length from singer-songwriter Aubrey Anderson's Skating Club continues to travel the intimate, rootsy slowcore path mapped on its eponymous 2001 debut and lushly landscaped on last year's Bugs and Flowers. Melancholy and a tired sort of whimsy rub friendly shoulders on every textured track, but melancholy dominates, inspiring resonance without ever dragging you too far down. You don't listen to Anderson's guitar-driven, echoed-out ruminations so much as submerge yourself in them -- experiencing The Unfound Sound is like sitting in an expensively appointed lounge after hours, only the air is full of sweet viscous liquid rather than cigarette smoke, and the talented, mellow band onstage didn't quit playing when everyone else left. Those indie-roots fans who prefer their singer-songwriter fare more straightforward and less immaculately (com)posed might find Skating Club a little too hip for the room, but most will enjoy this evocative little suite of tunes as the perfect post-last-call drinking partner. --Scott Harrell


Erasing Clouds

The Unfound Sound is a fantastic album that is as calm and beautiful as walking along the beach on a clear night. I think I just burned up my monthly cliché minutes in that last sentence so I better make the rest of this review count. Aubrey Anderson's vocals remind me somewhat of Matthew Sweet and it blends well with the layers of music and noise on tracks such as 'Beach Tar Footsie', 'Headphones and Distance' and 'Panic and Doubt'. The Unfound Sound is a great singer-songwriter album with eleven magnificent tracks that refuses to disappoint. --Tony Wright


Last modified: Friday, 25-Jun-2010 14:16:41 PDT   [ Catalog | Bands | Listen | Who we are | Contact | Press ]