Reviews of It's All Just a Dirty Game
A collection of loose, jangly pub rock that almost seems out of sorts with the D/FW area and its current musical climate. There is a strong emphasis on lyric and song-style reminiscent of Elvis Costello, with a bit of The Pogues thrown into the bag (but not in that Celtic rip-off bullshit way). The tracks travel up and down the spectrum of musical influence, sounding like folk, then country, then rock only to stop and turn it all around again. There are some latin flavored guitar lines that keep the songs tense and anticipation high. -- Jason Manriquez
Reviews of Making Aeroplanes of Our Bodies
Action Attack Helicopter
When listening to Ashburne Glen, names like Elliot Smith, Belle and Sebastian, and the Beatles automatically spring up. And that’s okay because Glen’s latest release, Making Aeroplanes Of Our Bodies, is very British-derived and remains to be, simply put, a collection of very beautiful sounding love songs. What is interesting, however, is approaching the realization that Ashburne Glen is actually Jason Hensel of the Dallas, TX “Cure-esque” band The Last Drop. Regardless of who he is or where he’s from, his vocal stylings are amazingly British and exude a dreamy softness. Who knew something as simple as a plucked guitar and dancing fingers across the ivories (uhh, is that a harp I hear?) could be so nice? That’s it, this album is wonderful because it is just genuinely nice. Off of Plymouth Rawk, in association with TinArc, all the songs are very mellow but don’t necessarily lack genuine substance. Among the many jewels on Making Aeroplanes Of Our Bodies are tracks like “In April,” “Lost and Found,” and “Executioner’s Road,” where Glen allows his own musicianship to shine through without relying on the bands he is influenced by. Overall, this is a gorgeous album of sweet melodies and soft vocals. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this album does very well in college radio nationwide and possibly even breaks through to become a popular indie staple for the next few years. For real, this is good stuff. -- Saira Khan
Ashburne Glen is the solo project of Jason Hensel, leader of Dallas, Texas band the Last Drop. I don't know what the Last Drop sound like, but I imagine they rock harder than Ashburne Glen, and that Aeroplanes is Hensel's opportunity to indulge his wuss rock side. He cites Elliott Smith and the Cure as influences; I also hear a strong Belle and Sebastian echo (especially on "It Is She"), and plenty of Kinks, Smiths and Beatles worship.
So the album is derivative (as Hensel acknowledges both in the British orthography of the title and in his affected limey accent), but Hensel is talented enough to leave his own stamp on the songs and make them memorable. "Mentally Suffocating" has a bright, lilting melody completely at odds with its wretched title. The uptempo "For One Whose Heart I'm About To Break" shambles and jangles like the Cannanes covering the Byrds. "Is It She", "In April" and "Executioner's Road" all benefit greatly from understated piano parts. Synthesized strings give "A Completed Romance" a grandiose, orchestral sound; it's to the song's credit that it doesn't collapse under the weight of the arrangement.
Of the million or so non-British bands aping British pop, Ashburne Glen don't stand out, but they know the formula well enough to make very catchy and pleasing music. I've got "Mentally Suffocating" stuck in my head, and I'm sure I'll put Aeroplanes on again sometime. -- Scott Jacobson
Ashburne Glen is actually the solo vehicle for Texan Jason Hensel. With the help of a few friends, Hensel has cranked out a very nice, 10 track acoustic heartbreaker of an album.
Making Aeroplanes of Our Bodies is an odd title for a fairly straightforward collection of low key introspective ditties. Hensel goes back and forth between acoustic guitar and piano, but it's the piano numbers (such as 'In April') that really shine. He describes himself as part Elliot Smith, part Cure, but it's the sound of early Elliot that really sticks out. Tracks like 'Executioner's Road' shine with a slightly alt-country feel, while 'For One Whose Heart I'm About to Break' is a surprisingly good pop tune for such an ostensibly dark subject. 'Quickly Folding' is a very nice, brooding track that would do to get rid of the meandering guitar solo.
All and all this is a pleasant find, and a great start for a new artist. -- Shawn Delaney
Gods of Music
“It Is She” by Ashburne Glen
Do you remember how a lot of movies that were made in the mid 60’s almost always had one of those silly, “Young Love” vignettes? You know, the kind where the picture has a soft, gauzy treatment; and they usually involve some variation of a young couple frolicking in fields of flowers, cuddling together under a shade tree or playfully splashing in the water along a white sandy beach. All in all, pretty hokey stuff. Also, instead of dialog, these little vignettes would always have some sort of whimsical music by someone you never heard off. “It Is She” by Ashburne Glen could very well be one of those songs.
Listening, it’s hard not to imagine the “Young Love” vignette. “It Is She” definitely has a very nostalgic feel to it. Everything from the extensive ting-a-ting-a-ting-ting-a-ting cymbal work, to the simple piano melody and the stripped down production makes this song scream of 1964.
It’s hard not to listen to this song without getting a goofy smile on your face.
Now, while the decidedly Lo-Fi production is responsible for much of this songs charm, I felt that the vocals wound up sounding a little too distant and removed from the mix. I believe a little more polish, or perhaps even a better mic would have warmed things up nicely.
Regardless, this is a fun song that will transport you back to a simpler time. If you seemed to have misplaced your rose colored glasses, then “It Is She” will prove an effective substitute. -- Steve Paro
Sometimes you just want something simple to listen to. Something with easy-to-listen-to rhythms and guitars and vocals. No flashy crap. Ashburne Glen come through in spades on Making Airplanes of Our Bodies.
Very inoffensive for the most part, this music works well as background music on road trips. And if I were on hold, I would love to hear the cheerful melodies of Ashburne Glen.
"Mentally Suffocating" has a nice, xylophonic intro. Or maybe it is a triangle. Whatever it is, I like it.
I wonder whether it is a coincidence that the fourth track on Making Airplanes of Our Bodies is called "In April," what with April being the fourth month of the year. Anyway, it is a brooding track that would play well while baking Christmas cookies.
I recommend this album for fans of Simon and Garfunkel, which says something right there. I really think that a lot of people that would like Ashburne Glen won't ever get to hear them. Buy two and give one to your parents. If they are divorced, buy three and give them each one; they may like it so much that they could consider getting back together. – Joel Edelman
Ashburne Glen is the nom du rock of Jason Hensel, whose musical duties usually find him fronting the Last Drop, a Cure-driven outfit from Dallas. In his Ashburne Glen guise, Hensel prefers moody acoustic ‘90s pop with a definite ‘60s lo-fi veneer, like Michael Penn fronting Kinks’ demos. Hensel’s vocals are trebly and vulnerable, which works well in the service of songs that spring from the poppy end of the British folk tradition (although the might have tried a little harder to hit at least a couple of consecutive notes on “Quickly Folding”). Hensel is a definite Anglophile – the name of his side project has the ring of a London neighborhood, and then there’s the spelling of “aeroplanes” in the title – but he paints his songs with subtle shades of influence: a dash of Nick Drake on “Executioner’s Road,” a touch of the Cure on ‘Mentally Suffocating.” Ashburne Glen’s smiling imperfections are like Austin Powers’ teeth; they’re charming at first, but fixing them is best in the long run. – Brian Baker
The Big Takeover
Starting off with some mellow jangly folksy acoustic guitar play, Ashburne Glen swiftly shifts into a Brit-influenced twee glide across tambourine skies and psychedelic strum. After some lilting piano work under the Belle & Sebastian inspired vocals of Jason Hensel, I find it hard to believe that this band is from Dallas. A touch of the Jacobites kind of off kilter dynamics can be found floating through the shimmer of guitar, that off-key but sing-a-long voice that shines like a quirky smile on a youthful face. Some of the better songs are the ones that flow with a haunting voice, sparse guitar, and echoing keys, and it almost feels like a country & western ghost story, until the voice moves in again, and we switch countries. -- Marcel Feldmar
Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies by Ashburne Glen is an album best reviewed in summer. Although its cover art reminds me of gothic British winters, the music evokes sunny California days playing in the park barefoot, flying kites, and wearing beads… or, perhaps even the soundtrack to Love Story. Ashburne Glen are often compared to Belle and Sebastian, but to me, the music is even more purely retro: I am reminded directly of America in the 60s, especially love songs a la The Byrds and CSN.
Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies is primarily the brainchild of Texas musician Jason Hensel and includes a collection of other local artists. The songs explore esoteric themes of love with simple guitar, keyboard, and organ. Most of the album is slow and quiet, especially the first half, which includes tracks that at times become a bit repetitive. The lyrics on these early tracks are often vague and leave the listener feeling that they only know half of a conversation between two lovers. Unlike their 60s predecessors, Ashburne Glen do not delve deeply into social issues or philosophy, but mostly stick to simple themes of romantic love.
The second half of the album picks up speed and sound, featuring songs like "Letdown," which highlights stronger guitar rifts and a more driving tempo, and "Executioner’s Road," a saloon-piano inspired ditty that speaks of Old West justice. These later songs make evident another retro-aspect of the album, however: recorded on a simple four-track, many of the more sophisticated compositions sound muddy and uneven.
The vocals suffer most from the recording, taking a backseat at times to the piano and heavier guitar. This situation is partially due to the fact that the singing is much more subdued and whispery than similar bands like Belle and Sebastian whose vocals have a stronger solo presence and a decidely British dialect. Though Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies generally features solo singing, most tracks could easily have been harmonized, which may have strengthened its musical impact.
Perhaps the greatest strength and weakness of Making Aeroplanes Out of Our Bodies is its nostalgic West Coast feel, including all the grit of analog vinyl recordings and the simplicity of soft lyrics and keyboard accompaniment. The cd evidences the band’s early stages of development, including strong musicianship and solid arrangements, but it is a bit too directly derivative of folk and in need of a unique twist or more powerful presence. The band recently completed the recording of their second album, and I look forward to a more complex approach and sophisticated sound. --Brillo