Arrivals And Departures

Phil Ayoub

Daisy Hill & The Wickerman Music, 2010

http://www.philayoub.com

REVIEW BY: Josh Allen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/10/2011

Most people tend to be notoriously unproductive when killing time in an airport terminal.  Singer/songwriter Phil Ayoub, meanwhile, obviously uses his time just a little more creatively than the rest of us, having crafted an entire 14-song pop rock album (appropriately named Arrivals And Departures) while waiting for planes to reach his gate or baggage to reach his carousel.  As he did on his previous debut album, Ayoub joins forces with producer Tim Bradshaw (already associated with rock mainstays John Mayer and David Gray) to piece together a sometimes-gleeful, sometimes-wishful opus.

Curious opener “The Bearded Lady” leaves no doubt that you’re in for an upbeat experience, with a Ayoub’s cheerful vocals, rockabilly feel, driving rhythm, and even an interlude that sounds an awful lot like it was lifted from “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”  After I got past the overwhelming positivity of the second track, a party anthem called “Get Out (Live A Little, Love A Lot),” I discovered an infectiously catchy rock ballad with a hint of harmonica and twang and a heavy dose of imagery-heavy lyrics deftly describing the epitome of a chill rock show at a dive bar:  “He’ll pour you Jim Beam or Jack with your Dylan or Cash / Beer with Big and Rich, SoCo with Southern rock.”  All the while, Ayoub implores the listener to just, well, get out and enjoy life.  Undeniably good advice, but it toes the line somewhere between charmingly cheesy and full-on Disney Channel-esque super pop, coming off a touch trite if you’re not in the mood.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Arrivals keeps you guessing when you approach the midst of the album.  After the uber-poppy prologue, Ayoub throws in some exquisite slow numbers like the nostalgic narratives “Basement” and “Tara’s Birthday.”  The latter might faintly resemble an old James Taylor song and, while more thinly textured, is peppered with just the right touch of instrumental accents, from lap steel guitar to piano.  He recalls the airport motif again, chiming in with a wise insight, “Birthdays are like airports / They make you think of where you’re going / And where you’ve been.”  “Ray Of Light” picks the tempo up again, and its electronic influences and uneasy melody once again demonstrate the album’s variety, not to mention an incredibly striking chorus.

As the album ebbs and flows, it also hits and misses.  “Flowers At Work” and “Body Language” are each sunny and lovey-dovey, but quickly become repetitive and feels a little forced.  “Bad Habits” attempts to be a lighthearted caricature of couples who point out each other’s foibles.  It’s a decent try -- sort of a “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” only with observational humor on relationships instead of historical events -- but its monotony becomes tiresome after only a few verses.

Nonetheless, Arrivals and Departures grows on you.  It’s decidedly mainstream rock, but everywhere you look, you see wrinkles that make the album enjoyable:  a little alt-country here (“The Bearded Lady”), some melancholy piano there (“Goodnight Romeo”), and tender fingerpicked guitar to finish it off (“32 Memory Lane”).  Phil Ayoub and company come through with a solid songwriting effort boasting enough simple but always diverse hooks that deserve a second and third listen.

Rating: B

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© 2011 Josh Allen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Daisy Hill & The Wickerman Music, and is used for informational purposes only.