Secret Meeting score: 82
by Phil Scarisbrick
As the internet has evolved over the past two decades, the ways that artists have been able to use it to their advantage has also grown exponentially. Despite hailing from the Texan town of Denton, Ari Roar’s debut album – Calm Down – was born out of his residences in Seattle and New York; the latter being the location where it was recorded with producer, Hunter Davidson. He had contacted Davidson through Facebook, having been a fan of the Frankie Cosmos record, Next Thing, which he had produced. Both Cosmos and Ari Roar have used Bandcamp as a platform to put their music out, with Roar releasing two EPs that he had recorded with Midlake’s McKenzie Smith on the site. These online interactions led to him getting a deal with UK-based label Bella Union. On Thursday, he unveiled the video for a new song, Best Behaviour, announcing that an album of the same name would drop the next day.
The streaming only record sees more of the concise, yet beautiful guitar pop featured on his debut. However, this time the sound is more dreamy, and the melodies are steeped in 60s pop from the likes of The Monkees and The Beach Boys. Recorded in a converted shed on a Tascam tape recorder, there is a considered maturity from new father Roar (real name Caleb Campbell). Opening track, My Luck Is Up, pieces together various vocal parts over Pavement-esque guitars to make what straight away is his best song to date. Stitch combines a vibrant keyboard part with guitar and vocal melodies that make the whole two minutes and forty-five seconds a joy.
The single and title track feels like it could have been a stadium epic in the wrong hands- here though it reins in the production and theatrics for an intricate blend of melodies that run above an interestingly angular structure. Final track, Learn the Trick, is an acoustic number that distils everything you hear throughout the record and gives a wonderful presentation of Caleb Campbell, the songwriter. As Damien Jurado’s recent record – In the Shape of the Storm – showed, if the song is good enough, you don’t need anything more than a guitar and voice to showcase it.
While artists such as Beach House and Father John Misty will shift big units for the label, Bella Union’s faith in artists like Ari Roar proves what an important platform they are. He may fly under the radar a little, but he is definitely a hidden gem. Thankfully, in the ever connected way we live our lives now, people will get the opportunity to enjoy to enjoy this excellent record.