Review Summary: this album is proof that Aaron West exists.
It’s almost ridiculous to think that We Don't Have Each Other is about a fictional character. Dan “Soupy” Campbell creates a visceral tale that gives life to a fictional character in a very real world. To understand the Aaron West character, Soupy would go as far as to write journal entries about Aaron West’s worst year. Undoubtedly, the amount of time, effort, and creativity that went into this album paid off.
Essentially, this album is about the worst year of Aaron West’s life and how he copes with the series of unfortunate events. From dealing with the loss of a loved one (St. Joe Keep’s Us Safe/Divorce and the American South) to dealing with depression and being worn out (The Thunderbird Inn/You Ain't No Saint). The way the story is told is seamless and surprisingly relatable. It is in this relatable factor that gives Aaron West life. For me Aaron West’s story reminds me of those long drives through the American South. You know, when you're on the road at two in the morning just trying to get home. Then you find yourself at some truck stop in a town you never heard of before.
In terms of sound there is little to no hints of The Wonder Years here. The closest Wonder Years song would be The Devil in my Bloodstream or any of their acoustic songs. But even then, here on We Don’t Have Each Other it never becomes too bombastic like the second half of The Devil in my Bloodstream. The whole album is more like The Mountain Goats than The Wonder Years. This is made clear with a The Mountain Goats cover and the lyric “I’m gonna go to Georgia” on Runnin’ Scared.
Soupy stated that this was supposed to be an exercise in better songwriting and guitar playing. However, it is clear that Soupy learned to become a better composer as well. Throughout the album there is a lot of different layers of instruments. The beautiful opener Our Apartment starts with clean electric guitar plucking. Then the song explodes into an eclectic mix of acoustic guitar, drums, and even banjo! Different uses of layering could be heard throughout the album. In a way, Soupy’s experimentation of different instrumentals is similar to that of Sufjan Steven’s compositions. But this ain't no Illinois, different layers of instrumentals, are used here to stress dynamics as compared to Sufjan’s thematic uses.
Due to the incredibly fleshed out character of Aaron West, it is hard to believe, that Aaron West is fictional. The relatable subject matter, infectious melodies, and incredible composition leaves We Don’t Have Each Other as an unforgettable experience. Who knows, maybe in the future it might become a benchmark to the genre. However, if anything, this album is proof that Aaron West exists.