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”