Scarboro Aquarium Club – Poisoned

The debut album by Scarboro Aquarium Club plays like an experimental album put out by veterans. Poisoned is a very well-produced, eclectic mix of songs to either sit around alone and sulk to, or get up and dance to…either way, you’ll love every minute of this album. It sounds like a collaboration between Belle & Sebastian and Erasure. It is a CD of trance-filled, catchy, gloomy tunes that can accompany any mood. Cheesy synthesizers and a drum machine, accompanied by soft-voiced Corey Schmidt who is pretty much the whole show here, appear on an ambitious 16 tracks, none of which seem like useless filler. Every song, whether instrumental or not, serve a purpose to give this album an eerie flow from melancholy to jubilant.
It all opens with “Never Been to the Moon,” an understated introduction to Corey’s dream world. This moves right in to “FuturePop,” by far the album’s catchiest tune, with guest vocalist Melissa Boraski. She boldly sings “it’s self-indulgent when bands record just what they want to say.” This CD does just the opposite – it is a band that records an audio passport to a fantasy world you’ve never dreamt of. “FuturePop” is a poppy, snide take on musical snobbery, sounding like a joint effort between Papas Fritas and Sinead O’Connor.
The next few tracks sound like something out of the Pet Shop Boys demo pile, but they provide a great transition to “Little Nikka,” my personal favorite song on the album. This song sounds like someone got St. Etienne to produce a track by Donovan. The lyrics are beautiful and embody the spirit of longing and indifference. “You may never know how bright you are to me / and you may never know just what you mean to me / So Little Nikka, dance away” Corey sings, giving you the feeling that you are overhearing his inner thoughts. The stylistic shuffle continues through the rest of the album. Next up is “Sleeping Sound,” which is a light, poppy tune sung by Melanie McKay. This is a song of young love and innocence with a youthful, bouncy melody, featuring playfully suggestive lyrics.
While the entire album stands out as truly great, the tracks “Someone Else,” “The Hemlock Girls,” and “Flying Over Yelapa” are definitely standouts. “The Hemlock Girls” will haunt your mind for days after listening. “Flying Over Yelapa” makes you feel like you are witnessing your own funeral, with its evocative, airy, carefree tune, playing hand-in-hand with morbid organ chords and ending with an abrupt plug-pulling silence. Sheer beauty.
This whole album is ethereal and enchanting, and at the same time haunting and spooky. You could play this album at a happening Friday-night party, or throw it on during a Sunday morning rainstorm. You will be moved no matter when you give it a listen. It is background music for any occasion and foreground music for times of pensive thought or cheerless moping. This album plays like the soundtrack to a small art house film that leaves the audience both teary-eyed and wanting more. It’s an album I give two thumbs up and a perfect 10.