Release Date: Sep 9, 2008
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Songwriter continues to finely hone his unique, affecting DIY styleFrom Stevie Wonder and Todd Rundgren to Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, self-sufficiency in recording—being your own one-man band—has served as more than just a badge of honor.It's also a disarmingly simple way to maintain consistency over the course of multiple albums, if not a career. On Soft Airplane, bedroom/basement-recording aficionado Chad VanGaalen still plays nearly every instrument in the mix, as he did on previous LPs Infiniheart and Skelliconnection, but something's changed. Where earlier albums could seem scattershot, with tracks independently culled from hundreds of stockpiled songs, Soft Airplane is concise and fully-realized.
Chad VanGaalen—illustrator, animator, songwriter, home recorder—is every DIY purist’s dream. It’s one thing to perform virtually every instrument on your album, but VanGaalen takes it a step further: he handmade many of the instruments himself and, with “an old tape machine and a JVC ghetto blaster,” recorded this fractured pop song cycle in his Canada basement. “The songs on Soft Airplane were written and recorded more or less within the same time period, rather than collected from disparate moments,” notes the press release.
Recorded in the two years following Skelliconnection using low fidelity equipment, specifically, a rustic tape deck and old JVC boom box, Chad VanGaalen's third record is as complex as ever, with all the bells and whistles (sometimes literally) that excessive overdubbing can provide. Brushing the textures aside, it's also VanGaalen's most straightforward album to date. While Skelliconnection was taken from over a hundred songs that he had stockpiled in his basement, causing the mood to jump around aimlessly from one genre extreme to another -- sometimes offering metal ("Flower Gardens") and at other times offering chilled-out electronica ("Red Hot Drops") -- Soft Airplane is a more focused outing; one that rarely travels outside the indie pop realm.
Self-consciously sticking with the lo-fi aesthetic that earned him winking emoticons from indie rock fans throughout the blogosphere, Calgary's Chad VanGaalen releases another terribly twee basement tinker tape that answers the question no one dared ask: what would Destroyer sound like if Dan Bejar were obsessed with Neil Young instead of David Bowie? Ultimately, your appreciation of the quaintly crafted pop ditties on Soft Airplane will depend on your tolerance for listening to an adult male trying to sound like a naive little boy. If that strikes you as cute rather than troubling or pathetic, then you should be all over it. .