Chad Van Gaalen may be afraid of death, but he's more afraid of not confronting it and making you aware that he knows about it. And he reaches your conscious so as to remind you that "no one knows where we go when were dead..." as the lyrics of "Rabid Bits of Time" entertain.

On Soft Airplane, Mr. Van Gaalen third record (available now via Sup Pop), he does not tip-toe around death. The one thing people run the hardest from, here, is in your face. Yet it's comforting in the playful way it is portrayed. There is no doom. There is ostensibly only acceptance and bright lights.

The album is unavoidably good. A man that obsesses over any one thing usually translates well to recording. This is no different.

On the opener "Willow Tree" a succinctly plucked banjo echoes gorgeously "Sleep all day/just waiting for the sun to set" and this sets the tone for a melancholic recording that never feels so.

There are moments in Van Gaalens crooning when you will hear a contemporary Neil Young. Especially on "Cry of the Day", a song that shows off odd percusions, rythmic acoustic guitars, child like lyrics and demonstrates how to make home recordings work for you. So he does tread new ground, as he meshes Young-esque familiarity with indie and electronic elements. He is a modern musician whose passion is his art (which also includes visual art like the Soft Airplane album cover).

Soft Airplane will make many top ten lists this year (including, most likely, mine) because of the way we learn to look at life (and death) through Van Gaalen's eyes. And things look-and more importantly sound-better.

One thing that you should do is avoid counting derivatives of the word "dead" on Soft Airplane, for you could be with this album for a long time. On second thought, being with this album for a long time is a damn good thing. Nothing wrong with dwelling on dying, because it rarely feel so un-gloomy.
3.75 of 5 stars

AuthorNick Greto