I’m sitting here in front of the laptop on the eve of getting to see American Aquarium live for the very first time (by the time you’re reading this I’ll already have seen them) and I’m preparing to do my third piece about an American Aquarium album. When they first started up they were easily described as Whiskeytown-meets-Lucero, and every obligatory Springsteen reference was earned in full. With their latest album, Small Town Hymns, I feel like the band is finally starting to try and break out of those limits. Some will point at the lyrical content of this album and say it’s safe, playing well within the tried and true confines of the genre, and honestly I cannot argue with that assessment. That said, what B.J.’s lyrics might lack in refinement is made up in the kind of authenticity that can occasionally find a small handful of his “songs” present in the bar during hometown shows, and I can appreciate that kind of thing.

In the past I’ve described American Aquarium as an “indie rock band with just enough twang & swagger to keep this particular blogger engaged”. This time around the tides have certainly changed, bringing us a largely Americana sound with enough indie elements to keep it from sounding stale or formulaic but that swagger, that ain’t going nowhere.

For me the real gem in this album isn’t in it’s lyrical content (liked or not) and it’s not in the indie main dish, which has been relegated to a mere side dish. No, where this album truly excels is in its overall feel. To me, the album has a quiet desperation to it with an underlying theme of people trying get out of their self-defined limits, beliefs, towns and habits, even though everyone, including themselves, know they’ll probably fail. Maybe it’s ’cause I grew up in a small town with the same mind frame or ’cause I’m drunk tonight, but there is something about that that I can embrace, befriend and label Essential Listening.

American Aquarium – Nothing To Lose
American Aquarium – Rattlesnake
American Aquarium – Water in the Well

American Aquarium’s Official Site, American Aquarium on myspace, Buy Small Town Hymns


  1. I’m sending you a quick message to say thanks for the music. I’ve been a fan of this blog for about a year now and haven’t found a better place. I’m in Afhganistan right now and every chance I get I check for some new tunes to for the road. I have to say it don’t get much better than American Aquariuam.

  2. AIV,
    As official t-shirt supplier of 9bullets can I send Cameron a shirt on behalf of you and the whole 9bullets family? (Unless of course he already has one!) I am also going to see I can Lick Any SOB in the House with Drag the River in Portland next weekend and would be happy to put together a killer merch care package. Contact me at
    In the meantime stay safe.

  3. Thank you Nine Bullets for all of the music education that you supply us with. American Aquarium is a bad ass band. This place has turned into my church.

  4. I checked this band out and they have great stage presence and put on one hell of a live show but their songs are not that great. It’s all just buzz right now. Singing about getting out of town in a beat up old truck with your girl has been done so many times before! I really don’t see what the big deal is? The music is unoriginal and it seems to me that they just want to be the Drive By Truckers…am I wrong?

  5. hey hey – you werent paying attention to them at the 9b party in Austin? I know that a that point (early in the evening), we were all getting our drink on, but I at least remember them playing 😉

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