Brighton and London nine piece Stars of Aviation have been making indie-pop music together since the turn of the millennium. Despite being in the game for ten years though, they are yet to release an album, preferring instead to stick to the EP format. This year however, will finally see the release of their debut album, but not before the latest EP By The Shore – their first release for four years – paves the way.
So with four years to work on songs, surely this EP will be four tracks of glorious indie-pop classics in the making, right? Well, sadly no.
It opens with the title track, the intro of which sounds as if it should soundtrack a Children’s TV show involving talking animals and a magical forest. Mercifully, it does give in to a rather charming Belle & Sebastian-esque melody after 30 seconds or so, which improves the listening experience ten fold. The melody is strong enough to carry the song despite the cringe worthy lyrics ‘You made me feel like a stupid fool / You took the piss when you said I was cool / But I thought it was fair / When you said I was square / Because I always follow the rules.’ Also, rather unfortunately, the aforementioned intro makes an unwelcome return to bridge the gap between chorus’s but again, it ends fractionally before it becomes so annoying that you give up and switch it off.
So not the greatest of starts then, and I’m afraid the second track, ‘Deepest Dark Peru’ does little to improve things. With the verse sung entirely in French and a chorus which simply repeats the title over and over, at the very least it renders the lyrics less of an issue. It begins with a dreamy, almost dreary style that feels as if it could build into something rather beautiful but unfortunately, it never picks up momentum and leads to nothing more than a trumpet and accordion outro, resulting in the whole thing feeling more than a little flat.
The trumpet makes a reappearance immediately for track 3, ‘Underneath The Elms’ which sounds like a Ska song being played in super slow motion – not as entertaining as it probably seems when you read it.
Finally though – just as you are about to dismiss the EP altogether – the remaining song ‘You Be The Boy, I’ll Be The Girl’ makes for a consistently enjoyable 3 minutes. Again echoing Belle & Sebastian, in melody if not lyrical prowess, it is the first time on this EP where the trumpet feels like it belongs, rather than it being crowbarred in for the sake of it. It is a genuinely lovely pop song and manages to spare you the feeling that you have wasted your time with this record. Once you realise what they are capable of though, it just makes it all the more frustrating that the three other songs fall so short of this standard.
Four years is time enough to write a lot of songs – let us hope that SOA have been coy enough to save the real gems for the album.