A Life, A Song, A Cigarette - Black Air

10 songs
37:34 minutes
***** ****


Last year, the weirdly named A Life, A Song, A Cigarette made quite an impression with their debut album Fresh Kills Landfill, but when you come from a cultural desert like Austria (strictly speaking in terms of rock music), you have to come back with something even more eye-popping if you want to leave your mark. Their follow-up Black Air is adorned with a rather stale cover artwork, because what matters here is what is inside. This time, the six-piece hired Ken Stringfellow of Posies, R.E.M. and the reformed Big Star fame to give them the sound they deserve, and it’s incredible what he squeezed out of this band.

The ten songs are a healthy mix between festive indie rock and yearning ballads. The typical rock instrumentation is enhanced by lapsteel guitars, pianos, organs, synths and cello. Guest musicians add touches of trumpets and bassoon, which helps to elevate Black Air above your typical mainstream indie album. The production is transparent, crystal clear and powerful, all at the same time, and although the many ballads are nicely melancholic and never drifting into kitsch, it’s the band’s rock songs that give the CD the momentum that make it such a special affair. Especially Tears, the second to last song, is one of the best rock epics I have come across in a long time. That song alone is already worth the price of admittance.

The label might not like it, but the parallels to Bright Eyes are still obvious. The vocals sound similar, and the varied instrumentation is also something you find with the Nebraskans. But that’s not a point of criticism, because ALASAC stand there all by themselves, within their fantastic material, and you would never guess that they come from Austria. Fans of independent Americana should absolutely make this trip into the Alp republic!

Back to Reviews