“Airplane Blues” – the Antiques

Joey Barro is back, and he’s got his band with him this time. Featured here in January for a song from his solo album, which he recorded as the Traditionist, Barro has a somewhat more fleshed-out sound with his L.A.-based trio, the Antiques, but the appealing, brisk, acoustic-based stream-of-consciousness-esque vibe is still here, and that’s a good thing. The repeated refrain of “There are no more new ways to…” is a winner–it functions as the chorus structurally, but an endearing, irregular sort of chorus it is, lacking any fully repeated lyrical lines. From the outset the structure is clear, which allows the listener to await each iteration with curious anticipation. (Sample, from the first go-round: “There are no more new ways to tap your shoes/There are no more new ways to sing the blues.” My favorite comes later: “There are no more new ways to try to belong.”)

The thing that seals the entire song for me is the upward leap the melody takes in the middle of this “no more new ways” section, between the first third and fourth lines. Even though there’s nothing unusual about it, it’s still a delightful semi-surprise each time. This is why I’m suspicious of flagrant songwriting twists and tricks: something reasonably plain is often all it takes.

I have not been able to discern why it’s called “Airplane Blues,” but that could just be my characteristic lack of lyric focus (I hear phrases but not storylines). The song comes from Cicadas, the second Antiques album, which has had something of a slow-motion history. Recorded in ’07 (by Scott Solter, who is known for his work with John Vanderslice, Okkervil River, and the Mountain Goats), it was released on CD in ’08 on Banter Records, and then just last week given a digital release via Filter US Recordings. MP3 via Banter.




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