AJR: “Neotheater” (Album Review)

Adam, Jack and Ryan Met of AJR in promotional footage; photo courtesy of Rolling Stones

The Brooklyn-based alternative pop trio of Brothers return with their third album that builds on the commercial success of their sophomore effort while delivering a coming-of-age reality through dance.

On their third studio LP, the Brooklyn-based brothers (Adam, Jack and Ryan Met) continue to build upon the commercial success and sound of their sophomore album (and mainstream debut), 2017’s The Click. The trio continue their assessment of modern-day life through bubbly tracks steeped with electronic and light orchestration, memorable hooks with a little commentary. Earlier this year, they released the single “Burn the House Down” which became a semi-official anthem against gun violence for the March For Our Lives movement; promotional single “Birthday Party” even takes a jab at our current national perspective of immigration and racial identities. What is most creative of all in their current effort is the usage of various instruments produced both live and electronically.

Neotheater Album Cover featuring the Met Brothers in their signature graphics

AJR wastes no time at all displaying Neotheater‘s new sonic and lyrical direction from their previous works. The opening track “Next Up Forever” begins with a sample track of choir music before building into an electronic acoustic sound. Right off the bat, the brothers make it evident that they are not trying to replicate the successes of their previous effort but instead build upon what made them go mainstream in the first place. They sing about coming-of-age from a personal perspective while introspectively dancing through the pains and sorrows that come with growing up. And what is intriguing most about a trio connected by the same genomic makeup (literally) is that they each bring a different perspective with how they have dealt about coming-of-age. “Don’t Throw Out My Legos” is an intersting yet strangely affecting ode to lost innocence of childhood using a pensive piano and an ascending beat ready for the clubs.

The only other link that is heard (or even exists) that links their previous efforts with their dramatically different sonic range is the sixth track “Turning Out Pt. II” which centers around the healing process after a difficult breakup. It is built on minor chords, violins and a slower temp while the song mulls over hard lessons – similar to their previous efforts “Sober Up” and “Weak.” The Met brothers do not forget their roots and use their horn section heavily to build a number of rousing singalongs. They constantly fall back on their trusty trumpet sounds and propelled beats to carry adventurous melodies during the bridge.

Stream the Album now through Spotify!

Having the opportunity to see them live in concert paints a better picture of the creative process the team undergoes when crafting the sonic ranges that is heard in their work. Billed on Life is Beautiful Festival 2018’s lineup in Las Vegas was a wonderful opportunity to be able to see the band in their creative elements showing us how they mess around with synthesizers as well as actual instruments as well as using repetitive beats and auto-tuned vocal work to craft sounds that are not normally heard in the mainstream radio. Their music’s effervescence – the mixing of hip-hop, EDM, strummy pop, doo wop, among others – makes for an album that flies in the face of modern Top 40’s conventional glumness and repetition. “Wow, I’m Not Crazy” is the album’s catchiest and most dance-able party track that showcases the brothers’ ability to harmonize their vocals while also the many instruments they themselves have mastered to play.

With plenty of inspirations and stories paired with their familiar counterparts, AJR shows plenty of maturation on their recent outing. Still signed as independent artists to their own label (AJR Productions) they have the creative freedom and will unlike most artists, along them to achieve and foster the creative energy that the three brothers hold. As an AJR fan, Neotheater is a wonderful album to enjoy and resolves to keep trying new things and make it indispensable. They might think they’re weak BUT their beats make forindie-pop intrigue.

JAKKAWI: B

Recommended Song(s): “Birthday Party,” “100 Days,” “Dear Winter”

Music Video for lead single “100 Bad Days” (All rights and video owned by AJR and AJR Productions)
Released: April 26, 2019.
Genre(s): Electropop, alternative hip hop, Psychedelic pop, Doo wop.
Label: AJR Productions.
Featured Artist(s): N/A.
Tour: The Neotheater World Tour (2019) as well as various festivals [Bottlerock, Bonnaroo, Firefly, Park Live].
Vinyl Edition: Yes through various sources (as of publishing) - Clear Translucent Edition (UO), Regular (Merchbar).

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