Aer - Aer

Aer get oddly misogynistic on their self-titled debut.

Additional Info

5.6

ALBUM: Aer

ARTIST: Aer

2014

Alternative

Aer's appeal - and subsequent dominance over a good part of my last few years in high school - was never really all that complicated. These were two happy-go-lucky fans of hip-hop, hailing from Beantown, trying to make it big doing what they love, around the same time as the Mac Millers, the Asher Roths, the Sam Adams. Except we were led to believe that these guys were even more unique! More charismatic! More witty! Well, for a few fleeting moments - they were.

Carter Schultz took the reins for much of the rapping as David Mering strung together infectious hook after hook, melody after melody, and they absolutely had many enjoyable tracks. Tracks that simply grazed their frat-boy sensibility while having at least a foot firmly grounded in reality: "Try Her" was a coying and ultimately endearing flirt; "Water On The Moon" was comfortably highbrow; and "Wonderin' Why" was all of summer's midnight musings rolled up in one fluttering trinket ready-made for a nostalgia store. Hell, even "Fuck Your girlfriend" was understood youthful veracity - joking and jesting in (jolly) jubilance. It was understood as simple but allowed to pretend to be more. But for the same reason Kanye West, despite all his shortcomings as the interviewee you want him to be, doesn't tackle the same sound more than once (arguably twice), Aer needed to move forward almost the minute they touched down with this acoustic guitar-strumming singsong-bravado template. It seemed like they knew that too, at first, but in retrospect, they seem to almost purposefully devolve as artists to fit an exaggerated mold of themselves for their self-titled debut. Or maybe they started buying into their own bullshit - with even my favorite songs off this new LP sporting lines devoid of any real charm or justified ignorance, especially in context. In fact, aside from a few songs, a majority of this record is oddly misogynistic, missing any substantive message or purpose despite an engaging mold.

Where they were charming, they're now, maybe, catchy. Where they were confident and engaging, they're now cocky and bland - shallow and hollow. Where David’s singing would match and elevate the carefree rapping and overall springtime, summer breeze, aesthetic, it now struggles to hold a mirror away from the disconnected, sometimes cold and unaware raps. Now this could most definitely be attributed to a change in the listener rather than a change (or lack thereof) on the artist's end, but Aer’s stagnancy can be so easily traced over the material released through the last four years that their gleeful dismissiveness can’t keep being their only crutch. Even though my enjoyment, just as with A$AP Ferg, or Action Bronson, or the aforementioned Mr. Miller, stems from a conscious decision to buy into the bullshit at first, the latter artists are a lot less derivative in different aspects. On top of buying into the "gimmick," Ferg simply has great presence and makes bangers (no Miley Cyrus), Bronson is gifted with fantastic delivery and brilliantly cartoony wit, and Mac Miller has made a hard left turn into psychedelic, off-the- cuff tangents. They're still interesting - still great artists - beyond having to buy into an initial conceit. If you apply that same logic to Aer, yes, you get...um, marketable presence I guess - but aside from the production (which was always well selected and contributed to, presumably, mostly by David) - creativity in any shape or form is at an all-time low on this release. And what the hell is that “I want somebody to need this body” drop on “Pretty Lady (Around Me)"?

The mildly creepy hate, there’s actually a particularly striking on tracks like “I’m Not Sorry,” and slyly on “Says She Loves Me,” is just such an odd combination with David’s presence and the clear direction a lot of the songs seem to want to go - if it’s meant to be ironic, or sarcastic, or, um, honest, then it doesn’t mesh well. I single out the sung portions because they do seem to be devoid, for the most part, of the numbingly atypical content that plagues the verses. While I was naively thinking that “I’m Not Sorry” was a kind of self-deprecating track that they could easily pull off, Aer decides to combine eerily sexist point of views with a dismissive shrug masked as an ad-lib'd laugh or a chuckled hook - making me question the real intent in writing lines that go: "you’re another notch on my headboard/don’t test me, payback had to be the next thing." Usually, "in context" is the go-to defense for singling out lines or ideas but material like this on Aer is even worse in context due to the lack of self-awareness. It's almost as if Carter (and I guess David, although he appears to be the angel on the shoulder on many tracks) went from writing about playfully ignorant fantasies to deluding himself into believing that’s actually how he wants to present himself.

Presentation is key - whether you’re trying to make it as a rapper or just keep a steady job. So it makes sense that a condensed form of their worst, but arguably most marketable, attributes are what made it on to the debut. It's almost like they decided to reset progress content- wise, even though they weren't that far removed from their original starting point to begin with. In my opinion, it can really only be seen as the result of a skewed sense of self-perception, when your self-titled debut album ends with a track as coying (for all the wrong reasons now) as "Movin' It." The writing is largely inconsequential "here's how we made it/here's vaguely why" fluff in between the oddly malicious flirting - if it isn’t about the “FAM,” it’s curious lines that liken girls to drinks as they sing “I think I’ve had enough with this one.” The occasional fast rapping from Carter is a ploy to say even less than usual, and the forced inflections on certain tracks (“Whatever We Want,” “Movin’ It,” “Sincerely,” etc) usually only harm his naturally inviting delivery. David, looking more and more like the groups always reliable anchor, tries his hardest to instill some life into each hook or bridge (the reminiscent "(w)ittle (w)ockets" hook on “Spades, Clubs & Diamonds” being another highlight on his part) - even when having to croon "don't give it up so fast” on “Movin’ It.”

There's so much going right and wrong simultaneously, especially when they’re switching through a pretty unique catalogue of genres, that it's hard to fault anyone for being a fan - hell, I still am myself. If they work more on their chemistry together and the resulting songwriting rather than whatever pandered chemistry they're trying to form with their audience, I think there'll still be plenty to look forward to.

"Recipe is excellent/You’re another notch on my headboard/ Don’t test me”

1. Spades, Clubs & Diamonds
The album kicks off with a familiar twinkle as the soft-rock influence makes its presence known in the quite guitar strums, while the rhythmic bass and drum patterns establish the hip-hop roots. David delivers one of many infectious and catchy hooks on the record, melding memorable nostalgia with sedated hope, and his outro is beautifully delivered - even if a bit out of place amidst Carter's typical rapping. However, on this track, the rapping is more than passable (read: least offensively bland) and executed as smoothly as older favorites.8.0
2. Stars
The second track has Carter claiming, in one of his newer inflections, that his "voice should be heard." But he doesn't really make a case for himself before immediately switching the flow and cadence - making it apparent that it's all smoke and mirrors. But this song is one of the lesser offenders - only faulted because the content is bland more than anything else. The verses actually contain a few interesting tidbits (never fully explored) like: "let's find out what unsigned is." David and the bouncing production are once again there to merely fill the credits, and are passable - never allowed to be anything really poignant.6.0
3. Won't Laugh
This single does a lot right by utilizing David's almost infallible, nuanced, singing - claiming, "I won't laugh if you smile." It creates an airy yet flush aesthetic that carries the rhythm for the entire track. But where Carter could've elevated the track even more, he spits more of the same about their "progress" (commercially). The number of engaging aspects boil down to only a few things really: the swagger in the stop and start flow he uses, maybe a clever line or two about looking down if you're climbing the ladder and how "it all came clear" when he was looking out of the 74th floor in Shanghai, and his bravado when saying "run along" at the end. It's a great sounding single, but it's as hollow as the other tracks about the same shit on the same album. Oh, and there's an odd aside about his "boy" getting denied from a club because of his skin color. I think Kanye would be proud.7.0
4. Says She Loves Me
The start of the weirdly sexist vibes on this album, the hook on this track actually sports the line "I think I've had enough with this one" (the fact that it’s a double entendre makes it worse). I'm not straight-edge, sheltered, or even, really, " a nice person" by typical standards, so that's not why this content is so off-putting to me: it's the weird collage of overtly frat-boy, "this life was made for me," raps with the seemingly heartfelt, yet carefree, singing. The heart-on-sleeve acoustic guitar strumming mixed with the insight of a college freshman. There's just not enough irony, or sarcasm, or self-awareness, or whatever that sells this type of material for other artists. Because I don't have a moral dilemma over the fact that Eminem, almost two decades into his professional rapping career, mentioned killing another poor girl at some point over the last few releases - and that's way more misogynistic, right? No really, I don't know. I don't think it's the same thing at all - but maybe I'm wrong?5.0
5. I'm Not Sorry
With a great switch-up right at the start, that has David hinting at a very different, slower, song, before diving right into a fantastic intro about not being sorry that he let his guard down, I get why I was instantly drawn to this track. What I don't get is why Carter is so mad at this girl (or all women, I can't tell) and why he pointed the song in such a shallow direction. He tries to hand out reasons for the spiteful verses but only ends up stating that the girl gets comfortable too easily while he moves fast and because he hasn't felt repaid for his effort (read: they haven't fucked). So because of all these "awful" crimes committed by his girl, the one he chose to be with, he decides to have sex with her out of spite and leave her - claiming, almost triumphantly, that he's "not sorry." The instrumental and overall mixing and production choices are my favorite thus far though, with the "ecstasy in Chesapeake" bridge by Carter, aesthetically, being a great listen. But on paper, and in context/execution, the "never, ever, let her get near me again" bit is once again too misplaced. The ending of the track still brings it home well, with the stripped melody of the beat and David's crooning actually surprising me in their effectiveness. This is a perfect example of having a lot going right and wrong simultaneously. Almost forgot about the actual content of the verses for a second.7.0
6. Whenever We Want
That hook is cool for about five seconds before it becomes as annoying as it already seemed like it might in those fateful first few moments. As a whole, the track is derivative to a fault and reads like the Frat Boy Manifesto on paper. I was able to vibe for a bit cause Carter tries to make it seem like he's rapping his ass off (at times), but, wow, that inflection is more forced than Drake begging someone to "hold [his] phone" on "Worst Behavior" (which I actually love and would prefer to listen too over anything on this record). And for creativity's sake man, don't end a song with a straight faced grocery list of the cities you have fans in.3.5
7. Pretty Lady (Around Me)
Despite the promising start (read: David sings for a few second and Carter doesn't give off any gross vibes), Carter soon dives into using his fame for fucking - complete with a "I want somebody to need this body" breakdown chant halfway through the track. It gets hard to tell if it's parody (self or otherwise) when it gets cartoony around "well the correct information makes it all happen."4.0
8. Sincerely
A solid track, punctuating the streak of passable songs. Now, this isn't too far removed from earlier in the album with its talks of arriving at fame and the "FAM," but it's a lot more grounded and mildly interesting. "Sincerely," is also blessed with a (kind of unconnected) hook from David that's killer (as usual) and an underlying melody to the beat that's reminiscent of the violins from Childish Gambino's "That Power."7.5
9. Above My Floor
The absolute best David's sounded on this debut, the hook elevates this song to a highlight for me - there's a star quality to that delivery. Carter actually comes fully prepared too, right off the bat, as the first verse is more focused than any of his previous material, and the singsong melodies of the second verse save it from wandering too much. One of his most realized passages on this album comes in the form of an artistic risk too, as he sings: “I’m high in the attic/So close to the angels/But he’s in the basement playing games with the devil/I’m tryina get out and see the world from all angles/He only wants to stay in and polish up all his medals.” This fight within self, about self, is a great outing near the end of a pretty non-stimulating release.9.0
10. I’m With It
Aaand we’re back! As weird a transition as you’ll probably ever find, we go from a sincere tale about conflicting ideologies - the only one of it’s kind on the entire album - to another ode to the “crew.” This time there’s even a Das Racist type of inflection to Carter spitting “this house so big it needs exploring,” but I seriously believe it’s not meant to be as self-deprecating or even humorous. It’s just another flashy way to tread the same ground. There’s definitely some sense of self-awareness to the execution but it comes off as straight-faced rather than ironic. And, you can imagine just how out of place it sounds following “Above My Floor,” and this close to the end of the album.5.0
11. Ex
A pleasant surprise, this is how Aer should’ve tackled the countless one-sided, almost pigheaded, tracks they made referencing their “relationships” (or “conquests”). With a deep bass counterweighted by shrill, almost electronic keys (or strings, I can’t tell), a sci-fi canvas unveils for Carter to finally get a little bit deeper - touching on alcohol as a crutch, not a tool at his disposal, amongst other vices. His airy, reverberating, flow towards the of the first verse is pitch perfect as he paints a curious scene: “2 AMs an enemy yeah it’s my darkest hour/Park across the street and come meet me up in the shower/Ending a situation that started with a flower/In a grey area I’m about to get devoured.” Along with “Above my Floor,” this is another star-quality performance by David, who ad-libs “what” after singing “and she moans every time I’m in it” with such swagger, that it completely switches the connotation that I expected to find - if all the questionable lines up until now where to be any indication. I expected to find more disconnected, boring, insight into their flings but, instead, everything was operating pretty fantastically on this track.9.0
12. Movin’ It
“Don’t give it up so fast/I could show you who to groove with it” is what David is left singing on the final track of their debut album. Not only is the choice to end it on such an upbeat note, after the more somber “Ex” and “Above My Floor,” a poor decision, I think it’s probably also in poor taste to insert a bridge that urges a girl to “shake that body” because, I mean, “what else [is she] gonna do?” There’s just an off-putting sense of privilege in claiming that “that’s what happens with the FAM crew.” It’s got the same, almost too dismissive, vibe as “I’m With It” and it kills the atmosphere created by the previous track just as with “Above My Floor.” Also, didn’t Aer claim that they’d hate you if you didn’t “give it up so fast” back on “I’m Not Sorry” - you know, where Carter spent two verses hating on a girl who didn’t move as fast as him. By the end of this album, not only does the track list appear kind of spastic, so do the actual personas of Carter and David - hopefully not what they were going for, and something they can work on honing in the future.5.0
Narsimha Chintaluri is a creative writer currently satiating his need to write by venting about music, tv and film on any given platform.

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