Most of society tends to look at everything at face value; they don’t truly understand that there’s generally always more than what’s on the surface. After all, it’s easier to make assumptions off of what is known and on display compared to the unknown. That’s why when musicians do a 180 from their current output, it causes an uproar amongst a large percentage of their fan-base as people are taken aback by a “sudden” change that in actuality had most likely been brewing for a long period of time. Aaron Sprinkle knows a thing or two about changing up styles and sounds as he has not only worked with countless musicians who are held in critical acclaim, but he himself has been involved in writing and creating music since the early 90’s. While he is mostly known for his production work, there’s another side that people tend to overlook – his ongoing solo career. In 2013, after putting out his first solo album in 9 years with Water & Guns, which saw a transition towards a more modern pop sound, Aaron is back with in the spotlight with his new album, Real Life.
There’s two parts to Real Life’s overall sound and approach that will immediately help when it comes to determining whether or not the album is worth a listen for a person. First, the album has a level of cohesion and flow that is expected of established musicians; nearly every track lyrically and sonically is meticulously detailed and was intricately created to provide a sound that moves like water on a beautiful summer afternoon. This also helps showcase the high level of production that Real Life contains, which is a wonderful and accomplished feat all on its own. Secondly, and probably more importantly, the core sound thrives off of heavy, syncopated synthesizers and electronic beats with vocalizers throughout, giving it a very modern, poppy sound. It’s pretty safe to say that for someone who has worked across a large swathe of the spectrum that music covers, Real Life stays in a relatively safe and consistent lane.
The above can serve as a double-edge sword though as people are currently riding the bandwagon of constant experimentation and differentiation, which is something Aaron Sprinkle doesn’t really delve into deeply throughout the album, no matter how well put together it is. That said, this isn’t the typical radio-stylized pop that mainstream artists output today; instead, it’s a sound that has derived from his work as not only a producer, but as a musician over the past few decades. Throughout the whole of Real Life, there’s also an array of guests that Aaron has teamed up with – from Poemas’ Elle Puckett who is featured on the opening track, “Invincible” to Say Anythings’ Max Bemis and Memphis May Fires’ Matty Mullins – this is a record that is steeped in esteemed musical prowess from creator to guests.
From the perspective of the artist, this is one of the sides to Aaron Sprinkle that many may not be familiar with and from the perspective of the album, this is the one that should shine a spotlight on his solo output. Tracks like “Invincible” and “Real Life” have the budding choruses that demand to be sung while others like “Not Listening” and “Wander” take things down a notch and let the atmosphere do the talking. Even though Real Life stays in its lane, it’s a refreshing take on pop music as it blends modern and retro synths with a variety of electronic backings, vocal effects and high level production and polish, which all set a new desire for what pop music should sound like going forward.