by Nate Abernethy
It’s hard to recognize Aaron Sinclair’s early, Americana ventures with the recently disbanded Frank Smith in the DNA of his current, fuzzy garage pop incarnation A. Sinclair. However, upon more careful consideration it’s clear Sinclair has not abandoned his roots, but merely grown with them as he continues to expand into new territory. Album by album, over the years Sinclair has taken baby steps in experimentation with his sound. Some may decry Pretty Girls as a genre leap, but Sinclair has slowly been edging towards this with the soulful 2010 album Nineteen, 2012’s dark and brooding Before You Were Born and last year’s Nineties, which bears the closest resemblance to his newest EP.
A. Sinclair’s new EP Pretty Girls starts off strong with the first track “Suit Up”. “Suit Up”’s driving guitar tempo and bassy subdued vocals quickly abandon their brief precedent and kick into a danceable high gear that set the standard for the lively EP. It’s a song designed for radio play and it’s already achieved that goal, but leaves little impression upon closer listening. The track’s energetic and hesitation free vibes do however create a fast pace that rarely slows down throughout the EP. The next track is deceivingly simplistic, as “You Gotta Decide” begins with minimal percussion and little else. The layers build and build with an odd guitar jangle here or there until halfway through, the song reveals its true booming nature just to lure you back into a false sense of security with an atmospheric brief interlude punctuated by consistent keys.
The EP isn’t without its missteps, however. The following track and EP title source “Pretty Girls and Pretty Tights” starts off right with a swaggering intro and the occasional subtle fuzzy guitar, altogether more representative of something you would hear on a Ty Segall album. But when the chorus kicks in, the track fails to fully connect. It’s silly and lighthearted fare, but it’s also easily the weakest track. The dangers of Sinclair’s new sound are apparent with tracks like this, as without the signs of his unique fingerprints on the music, the song settles into blandness.
The remaining tracks provide the familiar tone and foundation of Sinclair’s previous work, and he is still at his best when he’s straddling both worlds. “Shiny Things” is a perfect middle ground as it provides a slight taste of the roots of his early work and the crackling dynamic of the desired new direction. Things continue winding down in a good way with “Throwing Up On The Ground,” which ping-pongs back and forth with your emotions as Sinclair blares passionate anthems followed by beaten and defeated whispers. It doesn’t quite contain the lively attitude of the previous tracks, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing as it stands out as just an all around fantastic song that showcases the entire band’s talents.
The album concludes with a stoic whimper that seems to tease the promise of more to come, as the final track “Yeah Me Too” fades out. A gorgeous ballad full of regret and recognition that provides the best glimpse at the country influence Austin has had on the Boston transplant. It almost feels incomplete as the final lyrics stumble out and you’re left expecting the next track to pick you right back up with compelling vigor. But it never comes and we’re left waiting to see what Sinclair will do next.
Ultimately the rock pop direction A. Sinclair seems to be taking is not a bad thing. The talent and experience is in place for A. Sinclair to carefully craft the band into a unique beast. However. Pretty Girls at times reveals the risks of such a gamble as the tracks with the most obvious departures feel generic and forgettable. So long as Sinclair continues to build upon the foundation he’s built for years instead of leaving it behind, the future holds great promise.