(Sun God Records, CD)
Good music has gotta have heart. But how many albums actually have a heartbeat? Like, literally? On his seventh album, Oroboros, released in September, prolific Vermont songwriter Aaron Flinn enlists the help of a very special musical guest, his then-unborn daughter Ruby True Flinn. The newest addition to the Flinn household lends percussion support via a sonogram recording of her heartbeat while in the womb. It’s a neat trick, to be sure. And the resulting album is — intentional pun alert! — a heartfelt ode to the wondrous and, at times, agonizing anticipation of a new child in a rapidly changing world.
Ruby makes her (impending) presence felt early. In fact, her oddly squishy pulse is the first sound we hear as it sets the tempo for the album’s upbeat opener, “I Want You.” As it turns out, the kid (embryo?) has already got rhythm. But given her talented multi-instrumentalist pop, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
And speaking of Flinn, the song finds him in pretty solid form, as well. While he’s backed by his Salad Days cohorts throughout much of the rest of the disc, here Flinn takes complete charge of the proceedings and plays all the instruments himself — save for one, obviously. He deftly winds a swooning bass line, punchy piano and searing slide guitar licks around Ruby’s driving heartbeat. All the while, he croons to his new arrival in his familiar, booming baritone, “I want you.” Mom Sarah Flinn chimes in with backing vocals on what is easily one of the most cleverly arranged tunes of the year.
An oroboros is a Greek symbol representing the cyclical nature of life. It is fitting, then, that Ruby provides the introduction to the disc, especially as she is really the star of the show. Aside from her cardiac cameo — and the numerous pictures of her gracing the album’s liner notes — Ruby is the inspiration for much of the album’s material. It is on these songs that Flinn fully hits his stride, lyrically and melodically. In particular, “Ruby Red,” “Tiny Love” and album closer “The Wait” find him forcefully but tenderly addressing many facets of impending fatherhood.
Oroboros is a fine addition to Aaron Flinn’s increasingly voluminous canon. Longtime fans will enjoy his trademark wry wordplay and adventurous arrangements. Those new to Flinn’s work will be introduced to a unique Vermont artist with a gift for unconventionally constructed, hook-heavy pop.
Catch Aaron Flinn’s Salad Days Wednesday, December 10, at Good Times Café in Hinesburg.