Or Give Me Death


    On its initial LP release, 2005’s I Sold Gold, David Terry’s Aqueduct reveled in quirky minimalisms that expanded under the weight of their own sound. Unsurprisingly, the hauntingly tuneful follow-up, Or Give Me Death, finds Terry with an expanded sonic palette, the better to fully illustrate his new tales of self-loathing and passive-aggressive kiss-offs.


    Having bunkered in Seattle via Tulsa, Aqueduct found a suitable home with local hero Barsuk Records, a label quite familiar with melancholy pop (Death Cab for Cutie, John Vanderslice). Clearly influenced by Jason Lytle of Grandaddy and Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, Terry’s best songs have the luster of great power pop and the unpredictable flexibility of great indie rock. He creates a full, broad sound here, judicious with both synthesizers and grand piano. As is invariably the case with second LPs, scores of new instruments are introduced to the proceedings. More often than not, Aqueduct maintains an excellent balance between electronic and acoustic and, better still, often integrates the two seamlessly. Terry’s vocal limitations even service the music. His anguished cracking voice somehow manages a steadiness that prevents his delivery from coming across as a mannered tick.


    Or Give Me Death has a few clumsier moments (including such lyrics as “It’s not the way I am/ It’s just the way I are”). Some songs dangle on the precipice of awkward–“As You Wish,” a homage to The Princess Bride, incorporates quite random moments from its inspiration, but upon repeat listens, this conceit ultimately renders it charming. Terry continues to soak up the dampness of the Pacific Northwest in his bummer lyrics, often a stark contrast to the melodies laid beneath but never inappropriate.


    While Grandaddy may be no longer, Aqueduct appears confidently able to assume is place as a purveyor of lo-fi writ large. Or Give Me Death might not quite attain the lofty position that The Sophtware Slump is seated upon, but until Lytle comes back in some new incarnation, Aqueduct makes for good company.