Alt Tuesday: The Airborne Toxic Event

So here comes another band from Los Angeles with a self-titled debut album and a really pretentious sounding band name. Probably taken some from high brow novel? Oh it was? I’m not surprised…

Oh, wait — this band is actually awesome. To be honest, the first time I heard The Airborne Toxic Event, I sort of wrote them off. It took me a long time to actually give their material a listen and even when I did, I wasn’t initially extremely fond of it. But present me takes a look at past me and wonders what past me was thinking. The Airborne Toxic Event is a quality rock band that displays expert musicianship and makes sure that songwriting always comes first.

The sound that The Airborne Toxic Event displays is simply well balanced. The band is made up of several classically trained musicians. The bass player, Noah, not only has the ability to play the bass, but also the cello and the double bass. The violinist, Anna, often takes on several responsibilities in live performances, including background vocals, percussion, and keyboards. Each member adds his or her own personal flare to lead singer Mikel Jollett’s thoughtful songwriting. The sound is reminiscent of a modern day adaptation of The Cure if The Cure had a violin player and used straight pianos instead of synths.

The opening track on their debut album is actually a simple layering process. Obviously built on a piano riff that front man and lead singer Jollett wrote, “Wishing Well” talks about a pretty common theme: wanting a night to go somewhere special or significant. Jollett writes touching lyrics where he is obviously being very personal, but still trying to get in touch with the listener.

Other standout tracks are “Gasoline,” “Happiness Is Overrated,” and the short-and-to-the-point “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” The title just about says it all as far as the subject matter of the lyrics goes. The music has a simple backing that serves the addictive melody of the chorus. A wonderful video of the band playing the song in the back of their van is posted here (check out more of these videos on YouTube. They did one per song on this album and they’re all fantastic.)

The lead single, “Sometime Around Midnight,” is this amazing five-minute epic, which has no chorus and simply tells a heartfelt narrative. The story is stereotypical: see your ex at a bar, get really drunk and upset, stumble through the streets with the need to see her. But Jollett puts his own spin on it and you believe every line. I would suggest this as a wonderful gateway into the rest of the album (which is why I have provided a video for you! How convenient!)

It’s pretty clear how I feel about this band. Go get yourself this album. I need to say no more.