Artist: Chad VanGaalen
Album: Soft Airplane
File Under: Indie Rock
Recommended if You Like: Neil Young, Beck
Featured Track: Willow Tree
I once heard Chad VanGaalen described as the schizophrenic son of Neil Young. And that completely made sense to me. The comparisons to Neil Young are obvious artistically and personally. Both are famously recluse and seem to favor the self-sufficiency of being a one-man band with a penchant for delicate, wavering vocals and a homemade aesthetic.
It’s here that the similarities end, however. As Chad is a much darker character. His lyrics are renown for being morbid and macabre. He seems fascinated by his own death, as the lyrics on ‘Willow Tree’ attest: “You can take my body / put it in a boat / light it on fire / send it out to sea.” Or the notion of his neighbor eating his dog in his own basement on ‘Cries of the Dead’.
I know, it sounds ridiculously depressing, but you really don’t need to have a morbid fascination to appreciate this album. There’s a stark beauty in the basement-recorded ‘Soft Airplane’ (as well as a nice cover of The Shins ‘City of Electric Light’). And while it’s true that the basement can be a dark and scary place at times, it can also be filled with wonder and surprise.