I still remember the first time I heard of this alt-country band from Raleigh, North Carolina. I was a Junior at North Carolina State University and stumbled across this record from a local band called Burn.Flicker.Die. I immediately was hooked. I told one of my best friends about it. He was hooked.
American Aquarium has always been one of the ultimate "Bummer Jam Bands" for me. There's something about the way BJ can put emotions we've all felt into a 3-4 minute song. And this new record is no different.
Lamentations, produced by Grammy Award winner Shooter Jennings, can be classified as bit of a departure...yet still very familiar. The band explores some new sounds on the album, but the top tier songwriting is still front and center.
Whether it's songs about working hard to get what you want (The Luckier You Get) or songs that illustrate the struggle of working class America (Me + Mine), few can match the songwriting clinic put on by Mr. Barham. However, where I think BJ's songwriting is at its best is when he delivers the emotional gut punches that seem to be based on his experiences or the experiences of those around him.
The strongest song on the record from a songwriting perspective, I believe is "The Day I Learned to Lie to You." This one hits hard. The piano driven tune recounts the story of looking back and regretting on the moment you start being dishonest with those closest to you, and how it escalates. The metaphor about his dishonesty growing like an oak tree, and then a branch falling and tearing right right through her heart gets you right in the feels.
But don't worry. This record isn't all slow. They've got some rockers in here as well. "Starts with You", "Before the Dogwood Blooms", and "The Luckier You Get" are all ones that'll be killer in concert. In particular, "The Luckier You Get" has serious Heartland Rock vibes. BJ perfectly encapsulates what I like to call the Tom Petty Special: a well-written rocker with a badass hook.
All in all, the band stays true to what the fans have grown to love about them. It's honest, well-written rootsy rock'n'roll. It's definitely worth a listen...or twenty.