Review Summary: A wild exhibition of talent from a pop music prodigy
Full disclosure: I've never heard of Scarypoolparty before. I wasn't keenly aware that it was the project of Alejandro Aranda - the runner-up of the seventeenth American Idol
season - nor that he had already achieved acclaim for 2019's Exit Form
or 2020's Doom Hologram
. I don't even watch American Idol
. All I knew at the time was that I had this sprawling, gorgeously arranged pop/jazz/soul/electronic mixture at my disposal, and I let it wash over me like a wave. All twenty-one tracks of it. And I'll tell you with the utmost sincerity that it's been a long
time since an album has made me feel this way: warm, safe, and in love; spellbound, slack-jawed, and scrambling to find the right words; so
excited that I literally couldn't wait to tell somebody about it - in this case you. That's how good The Act of Forgiveness
is: it inspires raw and genuine enthusiasm in a way that so few mainstream pop artists can even dream of mustering from their audience.
The record begins like a string-swept indie folk dream, with 'Daily Dose of Her Smile', 'Poison', and 'Falling Down' sounding like what Ed Sheeran might be if he ever had Radiohead circa A Moon Shaped Pool
ambition - it's clearly geared towards a radio audience, but it packs such a flourishing and beautiful energy that you practically never hear anymore. Orchestral violins swell towards the horizon, and pianos rain from the sky with the grace of a classically trained pianist. Aranda's vocals are soft yet poignant and memorable - these unassuming, melodious ballads of earnest romance that will make even the most hardened cynics swoon. With twenty-one tracks to work with, The Act of Forgiveness
covers a lot of ground. It expands into electronic and R&B territory across 'Friends', 'Cellphones', and 'Movie Screens', with the middle of those sounding like it could be a House of Balloons
bonus track and the latter featuring immersive, aqueous electronic effects that will make you feel like you're being absorbed into the song's namesake. At this point, The Act of Forgiveness
begins to unfurl even further, revealing its most beautiful colors and shades on top of what could only be described as an already gorgeous opening sequence.
'Beautiful' is a clear highlight, and is wrapped up in piano notes that cascade across the background while playfully dancing in the foreground - a dizzying moment of enchantment. 'Blesser' might be the best song here, continuing the album's penchant for lushness while whipping out brass woodwinds to accompany one of the experience's grooviest and most soulful choruses. I say this of course knowing that the title track exists, an eleven minute piano suite that sounds like it could have been lifted from the greatest classical compositions of the seventeenth/eighteenth centuries; except Aranda is just that good and this is yet another original and timeless cut. That's followed up immediately by an R&B slow dance of sorts, this stargazing ballad that floats on electronic backbeats, sparse piano, and tender strings called 'Felios' whose emotional impact I can't even begin to describe. 'Lonely Boy' refuses to be outdone, offering up a trumpet/piano interchange that is one of the most regal things I've heard since The National's 'England.' As The Act of Forgiveness
progresses, it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with multitude of ways that Alejandro Aranda is talented; still, the album only becomes more diversified and ambitious as it reaches its final stretch. 'Death City Dive' is an eight minute electronic piece whose atmosphere opens up like a ravine, and it's equal parts entrancing and majestic. Before The Act of Forgiveness
concludes, Alejandro masters noise rock on 'Spelloutriver' and hip-hop on 'Magic'...but I mean, no big deal, right? It's not like some people spend their whole lives trying to be good at one thing. The curtain closes to one of the most ominous and compelling avant-pop pieces I've heard this decade - thus obliterating any chance of this thing ending forgettably - and it's really just the exclamation point on an album that is enormous both literally and figuratively; a wild exhibition of talent from a pop music prodigy.
This is a record that essentially hits the mark twenty one straight times, for nearly two hours straight. It will steal your breath over and over again while seamlessly weaving its way through some of the most aesthetically striking music that you're likely to hear. It's monumental; a classic from the word go that will fill you with romance, elation, and depression. Scarypoolparty doesn't sound like the name of a project that would deliver such a beautiful and uncompromisingly experimental masterpiece, but that's part of its charm. The Act of Forgiveness
is something that no fan of music
should miss out on in 2021.
In other news, I guess I need to start watching American Idol