Air Traffic - Fractured Life
Record Label: EMI / Astralwerks
Release Date: February 5, 2008 (USA)
Indie rock sure isn’t what it used to be. Major labels are quickly swooping up once-obscure bands. Artists like PlayRadioPlay!, Death Cab for Cutie, and Cartel, bands that were unfamiliar to most a few years ago, are all quite comfortable on their major label platforms and on their way to becoming household names. EMI Records’ Air Traffic could soon be grouped with any of the aforementioned bands; they are an indie rock band that has nothing independent about them.
They offer a squeaky clean blend of Britpop that isn’t exactly cutting-edge, but enjoyable nonetheless. Singer Chris Wall seems all too privy to this formula: mod haircut + British accent + piano driven rock = success. It’s worked for many before them, so why not Air Traffic, too?
The first single, “Time Goes By,” might not be the most accessible song on Fractured Life, but it gives the listener a good taste of things to come. Wall pounds out the chords on piano while guitarist Tom Pritchard strums along for support. By the first chorus, it’s clear that Air Traffic could be described as a slightly brattier version of Coldplay. His use of falsetto in the chorus is reminiscent of so many of Chris Martin’s songs on Parachutes and beyond, which shouldn’t be seen as a downfall as both vocalists have impressive range and timbre. It’s a comparison that has been made before, but it is worthy of another mention.
Martin’s songs are usually somewhat more contemplative, however, as Wall comes off as a bit more rambunctious. This can be heard on “Never Even Told Me Her Name,” when he opens with the lyrics, “Suzy was a glad-rag-clad clown run-around, never even told me her name."
“Shooting Star” is the most thorough song on Fractured Life and therefore the most engaging. Wall’s transition from head voice to falsetto is about as smooth as could be desired and adds a great range of textures to the melody while fuzzy guitars and snotty lyrics are traded in for crisp piano arrangements.
Fractured Life is a squeaky-clean debut record that promises to attract a large audience with its release. The highlights of the record are undoubtedly Wall’s vocal performances. There’s something about his British accent that adds a charm to his voice and sets it apart from many American counterparts. It may not be long before you see Air Traffic’s latest video during the end credits of MTV’s The Hills.