In an alternate universe, Josh Scott would have become a major indie rock success by now. The songwriter’s Eau Claire, Wisconsin band Amateur Love would have gotten blog buzz, become ubiquitous on dorm room stereos, and eventually been dubbed Best New Artist at the Grammys. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Scott’s friend Justin Vernon would go on to follow this path as Bon Iver, even though peers like Vernon and Field Report’s Chris Porterfield were convinced that Scott’s talent surpassed their own.
Instead of finding Bon Iver’s level of success, Scott secluded himself in Chicago and watched friends break through from a distance. Over the years, he would sporadically reappear, coming out of the depths of his depression and autoimmune disease to work. Finally, he seems to have reemerged definitively with the self-titled debut of his new band, Aero Flynn, produced by Vernon.
Those years of hiding and suffering weigh heavily on the album, a hazy blend of synthesizer glitches and folk sentimentality. What’s remarkable, though, is that the album remains subtle and understated. Scott doesn’t try to make a grand statement of his journey, but implies it with lush instrumentation and ghostlike vocals. He sounds triumphant on the dreamy “Dk/Pi” and lonesome and afraid on closer “Moonbeams”. Even at his most intense, like on the sputtering “Trees”, he hardly raises his voice above a whisper. It’s easy to see what his friends find captivating about him. His greatest strength is his tact; he knows when to step away and let the instrumentation speak for him. The simple, reserved melody on “Maker” allows the rushing drums and weighty string arrangements to flourish.
Each song, whether it’s a frantic guitar experiment or a downtrodden piano ballad, builds a world within itself. On standout “Brand New”, however, Scott lets them all collide into one overwhelming, transcendental moment. Plunky bass lines crash against guitar twang with serene chimes in the background. Vernon’s monotone backing vocals give the song a steady undercurrent, as he both literally and figuratively acts as support for his friend.
Even if Scott doesn’t follow the path his friends foresaw for him, he’s still made something worth applauding. Aero Flynn is an engrossing artistic statement born out of tumultuous circumstances. This one mesmerizing piece is worth savoring all on its own.
Essential Tracks: “Dk/Pi”, “Maker”, and “Brand New”