Chad Van Gaalen – Soft Airplane

Chad Van Gaalen
Soft Airplane

His most complete album to date, Chad Van Gaalen’s Soft Airplane carries aisles of contradictions through turbulence and diffused sunlight. Here, the talented artist plays to his strengths.

The album sounds focused and consistent through all VanGaalen’s different musical experiments. His distinctive, delicate vocals unite the varied soundscapes and moods. With that great falsetto, VanGaalen’s words merge the ordinary with the fantastic. Real observations and memories become metaphors rich with meaning, inviting further interpretation.

Van Gaalen’s novel pop treatments manage a squeaky hinge’s functionality. Soft Airplane offers acoustic driven classics interlaced with rock and dance-pop songs. And almost every track is a winner. Even the sparse and minimal tracks bear ample fruit. Of course, Van Gaalen’s layered vocals are frequently the most engaging instrument.

Soft Airplane is full of favorites. “Willow Tree” is an anthem for the lifeless living, with the stirring lyric, “When I die, I’ll hang my head beside the willow tree / When I’m dead, is when I’ll be free / So you can take my heartache, put it in a boat / Light it on fire, send it out to sea”.

The off kilter lyrics on “Cries of the Dead” take death from the ground and recast it as part of everyday life: “I can hear the cries of the dead / Maybe it’s your neighbor beating his dog in the basement / I can hear the cries of the dead / muffled by the ground but still loud enough to make a sound”. And, later in the album, “Molten Light” highlights VanGaalen’s hauntingly bright falsetto, singing, “They dumped her body into the molten light / it floated to the surface and it did not ignite / She rose up slowly and walked to the shore / she stood up on the bank and she whispered, ‘I’ll find you and I’ll kill you'”.

The album also features several driving rock tracks. “Inside the Molecules” moves though a pop hook with a messy electric guitar. This song marks VanGaalen’s fullest rock sound ever. He sings, “Hey, my eyes aren’t working right now / But I’m going to see my baby any day”. Then VanGaalen takes on digital music with “Phantom Anthills”, perhaps topping the Flaming Lips in capturing a silly beauty. “TMNT Mask” is the less sophisticated, albeit darker electric composition.

While VanGaalen’s thin skinned, cherubic voice demands attention, his unorthodox pop arrangements and instrumentation deserve much praise. The lyrics and music put a child’s sense of wonder though daily rites of passage. Soft Airplane is Chad VanGaalen hitting stride among all his drawings of smiley faced skulls smeared with color. Listen to this talented, creative artist soon.