AJR’s new album Neotheater met all of my requirements for truly good music


I have always harbored the strong belief that truly good music is not the kind that urges you to get up and dance until you’re dizzy. Truly good music stops you completely; you can’t do anything but sit in silence and soak it in.

AJR’s new album, Neotheater, is of that soul stopping, deep thought inducing, truly great variety.

In their last release, AJR began to play around with some fresh sounds and new instruments. Neotheater is simply a continuation of that rejuvenating journey into a new sound. A sound which can only be described as a little bit of everything.

This new sound is represented in the albums cover image, which depicts the artists perched on what can only be described as a conglomeration of intertwining instruments. This image is the perfect representation for an album that explores the sounds of a multitude of new instruments.

Track one opens with an almost archaic feel — enhanced by the accompanying piano — and continues with that older style for the first thirty seconds of the song. A slight drumroll ushers in the rest of the song, and it isn’t until the culmination of the song that the sound comes full circle with that older, almost church-like feel.

The song’s very modern and upbeat middle, bookended by a very different sounding beginning and end, introduces you to the theme of contrasts which persists throughout the album.

Previously released “100 Bad Days” makes an appearance as the album’s third track. “100 Bad Days,” being one of the songs in which they had begun to develop this unique sound, fits right into the album.

Later in the album, during “The Entertainment’s Here,”  you can clearly hear AJR’s new style in the distortion they use in parts of the song. Throughout the whole album, AJR utilizes editing to give each of their songs their own unique twist. An earlier song, “Birthday Party,” is another prime example of this.

What I enjoy so deeply about AJR’s music, however, is not solely it’s “feel.” If you take the time to sit with one of their songs and listen — and I mean really listen — you will find a lot of interesting lines that string together to make the story that is AJR.

What I enjoy so deeply about AJR’s music however is not solely it’s “feel.” If you take the time to sit with one of their songs and listen — and I mean really listen — you will find a lot of interesting lines that string together to make the story that is AJR.”

A few of the most thought-provoking are tucked away in track number two: “Birthday Party.”

“I bet this Instagrams a load of fun. / I bet it never bites us in the bum.”

“I bet my ignorance is always bliss. Except ignoring pigment in our skin. I bet my countries nice to immigrants.”

“I bet I’ll see a female president.”

All of these lines — from just one song — had me evaluating and re-evaluating the song, its message, and who the artists are.

But some of the lines had a more personal impact.

“I’m kinda scared of graduation cause who am I when this is done?” from “Next Up Forever” and, “Oh no, don’t throw out my legos, what if I come back home?” from “Don’t Throw Out My Legos,” both spoke to where I am in my life journey at this moment. As I stand on the edge of my childhood, watching my friends begin to take the leap, I felt a connection with what AJR was sharing.

And then there was the whole final song. With this week being the seniors last week, a song titled “Finale (Can’t Wait To See What You Do Next),” hit a little too close to home. One of AJR’s talents is writing songs like this which can people of all ages — at all stages of their journey — can identify with and apply to their own lives.

As I sat in the passenger seat of my mother’s truck as we flew down the highway on the way to a track meet, I slid my earbuds in and immersed myself in that “truly good music” moment. Eyes closed in a feeling of musically induced ecstasy, heart singing along to the flow of the lyrics, AJR’s album made me slow down and experience it all.