It’s been a hot minute since I’ve heard an album with this much pop sensibility come out of Kansas City. Maybe I’m just not in sync with what’s actually going on, or maybe this really is the new generation pioneer for KC pop-punk music. Either way, Pilot For A Day’s debut full-length album, Better Air, is quite the refreshing listen.
Better Air is a record, that, in its entirety, emits positive vibes. Songs of hopeless romanticism, adolescent angst, girls, and life ambitions in general compose the 10-track, 40-minute album. And no matter how melancholy the lyrics become, the overall essence of every song leaves you feeling good.
Pilot for a Day hits hard on the home opener of Better Air, “Take This Chance.” Synthy siren sounds pop into your audible field first and foremost. The poppy and upbeat diddy that follows instantly lifts your mood. It is a defined precursor to the remainder of the album. “Take This Chance” presents itself with bold lyrics and positive energy, much like the remainder of the album.
Possibly the best track on this album is number three, “Extraordinary Life.” This four-minute anthem features the vocal work of close-to-legendary St. Louis rocker Andrew Volpe of Ludo fame. Pilot’s singer Nolan Smith’s chilling, low-toned voice on “Extraordinary Life” is extraordinarily complemented (see what I did there?) by Volpe’s voice on the chorus. The two have a great vocal chemistry that sounds like something you want to hear more of. The bad news: you don’t hear more of it on Better Air; the good news: the rest of the album is just as incredible.
Consistently keeping the upbeat tempo, there is no clear shift in motifs through Better Air. It is really quite refreshing to know that you don’t have to power through that slow song stuck in the middle of the album just to reach the more poppy ones. The first eight tracks are all equally as dancy and synth motivated as the rest. One thing you can count on is the shift in the last two tracks “From Somewhere to Here” and “Midwestern Kings.” These last two tracks form an appropriate outro.
“From Somewhere to Here” takes the cake for most somber song on the album. Accompanied by the perfect ballad chords of a piano, Smith takes on his haunting tone yet again, setting more of depressing tone. The song does pick up, but maintains that ballad persona. As the song progresses, it picks up more and more throughout the rest of the song.
The final track, “Midwestern Kings,” has the brilliant theme of starting a new life. This is probably the best way to end Better Air. As if saying throughout everything in life, there is always a chance to start again.
Steven Ervay is super rad.