A few years ago, as I was still finding my way into the jam scene, I took notice of a band that seemed to be everywhere. They were on what seemed like every single festival that summer while opening for other bands as well as doing their own shows. I swore they must have some sort of hologram stunt doubles because there was no way they could be playing so many shows. I thought, "These guys must be the hardest working band in the scene..."
That band was Aqueous.
Since then, I have watched as this already pretty stellar band has become more polished, more sophisticated in technique, and maintained their steady climb through nothing short of hard work, dedication, and pure talent. It's a pleasing experience to see well deserved success in music, and that is what they are accomplishing. Naturally I was pretty excited for their new record, Color Wheel, and I could not be more excited to tell you all about it.
The record itself showcases the band's particular brand of jam-centric melodic groove rock but it's so much more than anything they have released to date. Every single member of the band is uniquely talented in their own space but they have an incredible chemistry in their writing as they come together as a band, each person bringing something spectacular to the mix. This album is a collection of tight grooves, deep and funky bass, drums that knocked my socks clear off, and guitar work that inspires. On top of that, Aqueous has proven themselves to be tops with harmonies and creative vocals.
My favorite song on the record is, without a doubt, Second Sight. It's got a dance-able groove from start to finish with steady bass and clean percussion. The guitar ideas are inventive both is rhythm and solo. The vocals are amazing and remind me of Duran Duran a little with their straying from typical harmonies and key. This was the first song I heard when I got the record and I think I hit repeat four times before I even moved on to the rest of the record because I was just stuck on the vocal so hard. Then the turn the song takes midway with the heavy breakdown before kicking back up. The great thing about this song is how it showcases exactly why you should be paying attention to Aqueous. They are not a one trick pony. On the contrary, they are more talented than I think a lot of this scene is even aware. I'm a little smitten with this song. And it's not the first time I heard it either. They have been playing it live for a bit.
Often when I am reviewing a record, I will put it on in the car and take a drive. I have a three year old who loves car naps so my husband and I spent the two hours that my son was at his MMA class today just driving around our rural NJ neighborhood and listening. We listened to the song Realize Your Light over and over and in the process, we dubbed it the groovy booty song. This song is sexy as hell. The bass line has this awesome groove while the rest of the song carries along a cool smooth 70's AM Gold tone and feel. This song makes you feel sexy. It has just enough dance feel while keeping a softer but still strong feel. The vocals are incredible and at about four minutes in, the song changes and slows. The vocal comes in over piano, the drums come in and out while picking up speed and then the guitar slaps you in the face and takes you away. It's such an incredibly well written piece of music that I want to hug this band. And good gracious, the drums in this song! So well done.
Am I gushing? It's deserved. Let me pause for a moment to say that I didn't start out loving Aqueous. I caught them a few times and while I thought their groove was incredibly infectious, I just simply didn't get it. I wasn't into them. I didn't feel their sound at all. In my defense (sort of), I was still finding my way in this scene by way of the Jam Scene Gateway Drug, Twiddle. (I say that with adoration, affection, and respect) There was a lot about this scene and it's music me and my closed up small mind didn't get. That was my loss and the more I listen to this record, the more real that realization becomes. Few albums have really blown my hair back in the last few years the way this one has. Few albums have showcased raw talent and pure dedication the way this one has.
There is often this silly debate on FB groups and scene forums about "What band will be handed the torch?" It's a conversation that every band's name gets thrown into by it's biggest fans. I have a few theories myself and honestly, after this, Aqueous is right up there at the top of the list. Not only are they a band of impressively talented musicians, they are some of the nicest people I have met in this scene. We got to tug their ears and pick their brains for a few minutes at Disc Jam this year, and even though they were obviously busy, they were incredibly gracious and constantly smiling. As a journalist, even in the jam scene, friendly faces and genuinely kind souls are appreciated and not always found. I can't say enough nice things about these guys. They were just a pleasure to interview. I'm sure it helped that A Perfect Mess always brings tacos...but these guys are the real thing.
|Photo by: Zachary Todtenhagen 2018|
The biggest talk about this album I heard was that there was a new version of Weight of the Word with the incredible Turkuaz horn section. Now this was already a favorite song of mine so I was not really aware it could get cooler. Low and behold, here it is being cooler. The song is the same but it's like they took the best cheeseburger you ever tasted and put three more types of incredible cheese on it just to see if it could be better, and ta da! It is! It's freaking great! The sax towards the end just rocked me to the core.
The title track from the record is also a gem. This song reminds me of long drives on a sunny day while pondering the wonders and trials of your own life. The way the song climbs and slides and climbs and slides kind of flows with the way a deep thinking session will rise and fall. There is this really cool way the song chugs while still grooving. It has great changes and the guitar work in this song is gorgeous. There is a really cool solo, but the way it just carries you through the song from start to finish is goosebump material. The bass and drums are stellar. The vocals are stellar. It's just such a good song. This is one that I can't wait to see live now that I feel well acquainted with it.
Other notable mentions on the album are Good Enough with it's sweet but steady tone while still throwing us these fantastic vocals and changes. The harmonies are just thick and full and vibrate right to your insides. Also check out In It (For Me) with it's steady, plucky groove before it's kick ass slow and deep breakdown. It's got an almost prog rock feel to the ending.
This album knocked me for a loop. I have really grown to love this band so I was fully expected a really good record. My expectations were met and then kicked all over the place. Aqueous knocked it out of the park with Color Wheel. They have grown their sound into this really smart and sophisticated brand that is all their own. Someone once said that Aqueous might be the next big thing. I think they are there. Aqueous is the big thing right now, and you need Color Wheel in your life. Don't take my word for it. Get the album and see for yourself. Be prepared to be impressed. Be prepared to have to pick up your socks from across the room.
The guys are out playing shows through the fall, and you can peep their tour calendar HERE
Mark my words, the bar has been raised. You can come back here tomorrow and tell me I'm wrong if you want.
But I'm not. And you'll see.
But I'm not. And you'll see.