Air Traffic Controller

Sugarpop Records, 2012

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


It's not too often you see an occupation as a band name where the members actually have some involvement with said occupation. Dave Munro, the driving force behind Boston's Air Traffic Controller, did a stint in the U.S. Navy as an actual air traffic controller. While deployed he played around with some demos that struck a chord with his peers back home, thus setting the wheels in motion for the formation of a real band.

Forming an outfit consisting of violin, viola, and banjo players, Air Traffic Controller picked up steam as an indie rock band with a penchant for timeless song craft akin to Springsteen or Petty, yet with a rustic, warm feeling similar to The Decemberists or Mumford & Sons. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With their skills honed further and the support of a very successful Kickstarter effort, Air Traffic Controller was set to create a sophomore album and didn't see any point in doing anything halfway. Instead, they took up company with a forty-piece orchestra and even plugged in some duets amid their creative and soothing indie pop.

Nordo leads off with "Hurry Hurry," the most addictive song on the album with its playful keys complemented by rapid fire drumming. This follows with "If You Build It," a punchy pop rock tune would fit quite well on the FM dial. Later on, with "You Know Me," Munro takes up company with Casey Sullivan on vocals, the male/female singing matching the fuzzed out guitars perfectly. The band often adds light touches of unconventional instruments, plugging a mandolin in here, or later in the disc, violins. Though the sound is rooted mostly in electronic indie rock or – especially toward the second half of the disc – chamber pop, "Pick Me Up" has a bit of rockabilly swagger in it, while "Ready Or Not" is a great straight up pop rock song that could easily be a hit single and is definitely one of the best moments here. "Blame" is their most sparse offering, a well done ballad, and they end the disc with a bang, "Thinking Of You" which starts slow and erupts into majestic horns and thundering percussion.

While the lyrical topics surround relationship dynamics, the music here is fun, unique, and highly contagious. This is the sort of disc that a carload of people will sing to simultaneously, but then later you'll go home and dissect it by yourself, letting the maudlin strings and thoughtful wordplay really sink in. This is one of the best this year – Munro and company is a force to be reckoned within the world of independent music.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2012 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sugarpop Records, and is used for informational purposes only.