Review: Aerial East - 'Try Harder'

As a well-travelled songwriter, Aerial East is no stranger to crafting immaculate and detailed experience-driven music. Her debut album ‘Rooms’ gave us a peek into the world of her writing magic back in 2016, but ‘Try Harder is a refined, humble use of her talents: delicately crafted with a sleek finish.The Brooklyn-based beauty gives us an intimate tale of her teenage experiences set in an ethereal blend of angelic vocals delivering tender melodies.

Opening with titular track ‘Try Harder’, East envelopes us in a warming sway of melancholic melody with a hopeful undertone. The use of percussion is notably minimal throughout this album, but this track teases a gentle cymbal presence that intermittently frames the delicate vocal. While gravitating itself with mellow mumbling bass, this is a compelling first impression of what’s to come in the rest of the record.

‘The Things We Build’ features a joyous opening and hazy, tropical swells. The steady and methodical rhythm consolidates a fresh and summery sound, before we hear the perfectly poignant ‘Katharine’. The Partisan Records signee offers a raw and uninhibited, nostalgia-infused tale of a vibrant friendship that blossomed in her now-home, New York. Solemn synths and tame guitar accompany the unambiguous storytelling, while the vocal tone maintains a careful air of mystery. The world feels still as the gently building layers of harmony progressively increase and then cease in time for the song’s timely close.

As ‘Doin Somethin’ picks up a jazzy key part with radio-esque nature and vocal samples for a modernised, retro influence,I Love Dick’ quickly brings in (perhaps unexpected given the bold title) an interlude of shoe-gazey excellence with intricate harmony and synth progression. ‘Angry Man’ greets the listener with the most dominant percussion effort of the entire album: another example of East defying tradition for what sits right among her ethereal songwriting style.

Brennan returns us to the tropical, beachy sounds playfully tested throughout the record. The lyrics are quaint and performed with fragility, while a dark bass follows and grounds the track. Closing with ‘Be Leavin’, Aerial East drifts into ballad territory in a subdued manner. Witty, but sober, ‘Try Harder’ ends in synth-drenched, peaceful glory.

From start to finish, the production of ‘Try Harder’ is refreshing and frankly, stellar: bringing modernity to a classic pairing of delicate vocals and minimal instrumentation. The careful ebbing and flowing of synths, and sounds of nature delicately sampled make for a thoroughly stylish, touching album made to be cherished.