Aberfeldy - Do Whatever Turns You On

On the face of it, Aberfeldy are the sort of band every dad wants his daughter to meet. They’re friendly. They’re upbeat. They’re Brian Wilson’s sunny pop tunes without the B-side dark ballads. But a closer listen to Do What Turns You On reveals a hidden selfish (yet somehow endearing) outlook on modern life.

There has always been a harsh, untrusting edge to these seemingly jovial indie-folksters. If you’ve not seen it yet, check out the superbly demoralizing ending to 2004’s “Love is An Arrow” video on youtube. On their sophomore album, however, fear of heartbreak has been replaced by a more carefree, “fuck the rest of the world and live for yourself” attitude. Despite these changes, the quality of their music hasn’t dropped since the release of their debut album, (which was rated 9/10 by NME). So don’t feel shy in accepting (the wonderfully named) vocalist Riley Briggs’ invitation to join him in him whatever turns you on. Although mummy and daddy may not approve, boy is it a fun ride.

Thankfully this is no Blink 182 frat-fest. The aphrodisiac isn’t beer, breasts or boners. The Scottish five-piece’s message is more metaphorical. Overwhelmingly cynical of blind followers of fashion, they plead that the listener move away from the flock and decide how to live life on one’s own terms. Never is this clearer than on “All True Trendies,” where Briggs states, “We could take this town tonight/ But I doubt it would be worth the fight/ All true trendies sail with me/ Leave your friends and family/ Do it now!!”. Aberfeldy subscribe to the ideology that if the ladder is not leaning against the right window, every rung you climb just gets you to the wrong place faster.

Do Whatever Turns You On also pours scorn on those who scale their ladder in a way to impress others. Standout track “1970s,” rivals any emo band’s hatred of phonies, and does so in two and a half minutes of ironic hand-clapping pop. “You dress as if it’s the 1970s/ You say ‘far out, man’ but you don’t know what it means /I don’t think I can be friends/ With someone like you that pretends,” is a clever social commentary kept simple and void of pretension. Take note, Mr. Yorke!

But this album is more of a quarter-life crisis than a full-on breakdown caused by society and its norms. Briggs’ most cynical lyrics are softened by the beautiful harmonies provided by female bandmates Sarah McFayden and Ruth Barrie. Aberfeldy compliment zooming keyboards and looping guitars with traditional Celtic (fiddle, mandolin and glockenspiel) to take you on a musical journey unlike one you’ve likely been on before. In the world of of indie-folk chamber music, you’d have to look far and wide for a better chill-out album.

It’s ultimately upbeat and inspirational. Though “Never Give Up” may be a song specifically about the band (rightly) bemoaning their lack of commercial success (“Take a look around you/ So many famous people less talented than me”), it is instantly applicable to any individual who plods along when he knows he could be soaring. Again, the band implores you not to move the ladder to a window you don’t want to reach. Although you might not achieve all you want to, it’s better to fail doing what you love than succeed doing what you hate. Just stick with what turns you on.

The album is not so much anarchic as it is emancipating. Aberfeldy urge the listener to get out and do whatever they feel like doing. It’s a positive, amiable message, but comes at the expense of social norms and the expectations of friends and family. So they’re not quite the band to invite on a country retreat with your folks. In the morning, don’t be surprised to find that they’ve snuck out the back door… with your mom’s wedding ring.

--Matthew Reville

Release Date: July 3, 2006 (UK)

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