April 30, Living Room by AJR
Genre: Pop, but like if people with artistic sensibilities made it.
Total tracks: 13
Songs you might know:
– “I’m Ready”
My prior relationship with this album: I never really bothered with Living Room until a year and a half ago when AJR released their sophomore album, The Click. After that album stole my heart, I went back and listened to Living Room. While I’ve never really thought this album was in the same league as The Click or their most recent album, Neotheater, it’s still wonderful. The fact that it’s by far the weakest of the three has less to do with the quality of Living Room, and more to do with the insanely freaking over-the-top amazingness of the subsequent albums. This is largely because it’s probably the least consistent of the three, i.e. the one where I’m most likely to skip over some tracks to get to my favorites.
All that being said, I still love Living Room. AJR is my all-time favorite artist at this particular moment, so even their “weak” album is far superior to the best albums of 95% of artists. After blasting Neotheater several times and falling into the AJR rabbit hole, I came across a Spotify playlist of the band discussing this Living Room, and that’s what prompted me to revisit it today.
My impressions this time around: While I would still say Living Room is my least favorite of AJR’s albums as well as their least consistent, I forgot how charming some of the more low-key songs of this album could be. AJR is a band that can often be quite gimmicky, and while I think they do gimmicky incredibly well, Living Room probably does the best job of demonstrating that they can still be amazing artists without them (which is odd, since this is the album with the Spongebob sample). Even when they’re just dudes playing guitar/ukulele and singing about their feelings, they’re still a cut above all the other dudes playing guitar/ukulele and singing about their feelings. “Infinity” is probably the best example of that, and it’s one of the first AJR songs I remember really falling in love with. However, “Growing Old on Bleeker Street” is another great example I’d previously forgotten. These two, as well as “Big White Bed” all provide just the right breaths of fresh air as the album needs them.
There’s also plenty of great tracks on here that exemplify the cathartic, inventive, exuberant pop that comes to mind when I think of AJR. I’ve definitely played “Livin’ on Love” on repeat before, and while I admit that I initially kinda laughed at “I’m Ready” when I heard it several years back, it’s one of my favorites too. “The World is a Marble Heart” is one of those tracks that I hadn’t really remembered from prior listens, but this time around I was like “oh yeah, sick track!”
I also love how they added in some songs that fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. “Woody Allen” and “The Green and the Town” blend the production I’ve come to expect from AJR with some gentler, more mellow vibes and such songs really help to tie the whole album together. One reason I love this band is that they never make the same song twice, but yet their albums never feel disjointed or haphazard either. Living Room is no exception.
Who would enjoy it? I think people who are craving a quirky, nerdy alternative to more mainstream pop music would fall head over heels for this. I also think that if you don’t listen to pop largely because the genre is unoriginal and lacks emotion, AJR is the artist that could change your mind.