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Tunes Review: Aja interpreted by The Darcys

It’s pretty common to hear of a band recording a cover of someone else’s work. But when a band decides to cover an entire album, that’s completely different. But that is exactly what Toronto band The Darcys did with their second album, *Aja interpreted by The Darcys*. As the title suggests, the band covers Steely Dan’s classic 1977 album *Aja* (pronounced Asia) in its entirety.

Before I listened to The Darcys version of *Aja*, I was debating whether or not I should listen to the Steely Dan original album before, after, or not at all. I was tempted to listen to The Darcys album by itself, as new music untainted by knowing what it was “supposed” to sound like. Ultimately, however, I decided that when interpreting an entire album, it is expected that the two will be compared. So, I listened to Steely Dan’s *Aja* first. I listened to it a few times, actually. It’s not surprising that of the seven original albums Steely Dan released, their sixth release *Aja*, is the highest selling and is still widely considered their best by music critics. When it was released in 1977, it was immediately recognized as a classic that blended rock and jazz, and meaningful lyrics into an arrangement of seven complex songs.

Collectively known as The Darcys, Jason Couse,Wes Marskell, Dave Hurlow, and Michael Le Riche, do a fine job of covering *Aja*. And that is precisely the problem. It’s not bad, but there’s nothing special about it either. If they had written the album themselves it would have gone practically unnoticed as just another Ontario indie release. Everything feels slow and dull; gone are the jazz influences and layered vocals. Many of the original album’s most memorable melodies are hidden under plodding organ notes and droning guitars. Even the lyrics, one of the original album’s strongest points, are washed over by a constant haze of noise.

A week after listening to both albums, it’s the original Steely Dan songs that are stuck in my head.

When a band makes the bold decision to “interpret” a well-known and loved classic album, they should bring something new to the music to modify and make it their own. Though The Darcys have made it their own, the only new thing they did was remove many of the aspects that made the original album memorable.

The album is worth a listen, especially for fans of Canadian indie music and fans of Steely Dan. But ultimately, both will be left feeling like The Darcys could have done better.

 

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