David Terry is the knight errant of electronic pop music. After abandoning the lonesome plains of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2003, he relocated to the Emerald City, releasing the quirky I Sold Gold two years later. Being the torch-bearer for clever pop acts from post-grunge era Seattle is no easy task; if you don’t believe me, just ask Harvey Danger’s Sean Nelson. But as his tenure in the Pacific Northwest increases, so does Terry’s talent for crafting infectious hooks and danceable melodies. Or Give Me Death picks up where I Sold Gold left off, shedding much of the electronic nuance in favor of grand piano, mariachi horns and a whole lot more electric guitar.
Keyboards still have their place on the album, but Terry has corralled a much larger palette here, rustling up sounds from across an expansive pop spectrum. The touchstones are not so immediate, but reveal themselves with a few listens. The Nintendo-noodling of “Zero The Controls” borrows a page from the Beck-tionary, and Terry’s witty lyricism is all but impossible to ignore, “this is a song for all the lovers/ or anyone who’s playing
I’m willing to bet that Aqueduct would make Patrick Henry proud, although the type of liberty Terry sings about isn’t concerned with political freedom as much as it is escaping the tyranny of an angry lover. Take the keyboard/piano duet of “Keep It Together,” its sentiments trickling with bitterness and even a stab of humor: “You’ve been flying blind/ People never change, bitch don’t even try.” The album is far from anything vengeful, though, as Terry alternates between outright tell-offs and songs tinged with genuine devotion.
For those familiar with Aqueduct’s earlier bedroom-pop works, the blaring mariachi horns of “Just The Way I Are” may be initially alarming, but add the slight sarcasm of “my hearts in the right place/ but sometimes it’s off course,” and it goes down smoother than grape flavored cough syrup. Like Sean Nelson before him, Terry has employed the piano to give added effect to his wry lyrical sense. Forget Ben Folds, Aqueduct is now the lovelorn ivory-tickler everyone should be swooning over.
Who else could write a doo-wop tribute to The Princess Bride, call it “As You Wish,” complete with a repeated chorus of “to the pain” throughout, and invoke the kind of nostalgia that avoids being over sentimental, and even a little funny? The rainy Seattle weather must be having a truly muse-like effect on Terry, but after escaping the desolation of the Midwest, what wouldn’t give someone inspiration? Whatever the reasons, Aqueduct continues a trend that only improves with each release. Maybe death is a little much to ask for, but give me another Aqueduct album anyway.
MP3: “Living a Lie”