Days Pass Strange album cover by Fae King Taj

 

On November 11th, 2022, Aloe Vera released their sophomore album, Days Pass Strange. The album is a collaborative effort with Steel Tipped Dove, who produced, mixed, and mastered the LP. Kendall Denton completed the vocal engineering. This album features several excellent guests, including SB The Moor, Jordidge, NVS_RICHE, TTUM, Kali Dreamer and Jackpot Reggie. The album’s complex instrumentation is as varied as its themes and referential rhymes, bolstered by framing them within real life experiences as well as the musicals Rent and Passing Strange. The emotions put forth are messy, making it feel true to life. In a statement from Aloe Vera, they have been “confronted with their own insincerity and toxicity” and balancing “what it means to want community while not falling for the traps of a culture of disposability”. This is a lyrical monolith rooted in thoughts on race, social justice, religion, art, economics, mental health struggles, and bleak humanity. Days Pass Strange examines ideas that are not often elevated, because they make listeners consider their own privilege and preconceived notions by way of personal disclosure dosed with referential invectives. There is a righteousness to the rage put forth on Days Pass Strange that serves as the backbone throughout. 

 

 

This anger smolders on the track “Wonderbaum Blues” ft Jordidge. In this song, Aloe Vera interpolates Radiohead, TV on the Radio, Rent, and The Mamas & the Papas to express their feelings of wanting to leave their community. The chorus itself could easily be mistaken as saying fake plastic trees, rather than breeze, while also appropriating Tom Collins’ desire to escape to Santa Fe in Rent. Instead of using this dearth of references in a nod-and-wink moment, they are more often wielded to illustrate alienation. “Good bands don’t be in Bus Town/and I’m starting to see the reason/These paranoid androids don’t be dancing romancing /Just being at the show/Then ask me why I’m wearing merch/For a band they think I don’t know”. This line strikes out at peers and fans alike, in a way that can easily ring false depending on one’s experiences at concerts. Not all music is meant for dancing, nor is all art captivating enough to command rapt attention. However, the latter half reveals that these peers have treated Aloe Vera’s identity as artifice, because they were not paying attention to the content of the art put forth. This is a biting insult from an artist who speaks of their limited means, but who still chose to buy a likely expensive t-shirt for a band they love. Assumptions of artifice cut deep, because they reveal what short shrift listeners are giving to artists when the fans themselves are not tuned in. Many tracks on this album play out in this exact manner, dense with references that add meaning well beyond simple name checks.

 


 

Yet Days Pass Strange is not without positivity, even when that sentiment is put forth with scathing lyricism. On “526,000″ ft SB The Moor & TTUM, Aloe Vera is responding directly to Rent‘s themes, while putting their own spin on what it means to experience a year at a sludgy second by second pace. Money is important, “You playin’ with them decimals/I’m tryna f*ck up commas”, but so are higher achievements. “I want my baby to be/tryna get art degrees/I want my baby to see/doctorates and ‘ologies”. Humanity is difficult to portray, but these lines do that with aplomb. They show that the desire to attain material wealth can go hand in hand with desire for higher-minded achievements and a basis of security and a home, because those also require money. This entire song digs into the idea, made explicit at the end, that ending cognitive servitude can save oneself as well as future generations.

 

The music composed by Steel Tipped Dove is layered, seeming to challenge the listener in the same ways Aloe Vera’s lyrics do. It trades in rushed electronic beats and slammed piano rhythms, jazz-leaning horns, and meandering guitars. Steel Tipped Dove’s production is given a chance to showcase variations in talents and influences while crafting music that pushes boundaries by way of genre blending and experimentation. The ambition of these beats could be taken for a type of inconsistency, but also a point of interest. It remains dynamic throughout. The music remains engaging even on the fourth wall breaking track, “My Angel (reprise)” ft. Kali Dreamer & Jackpot Reggie. This isn’t a song, but a conversation amongst a few artists playing out over a couple minutes. It breaks the mold of the album with a few laughs. The casualness on this interlude show another side of Aloe Vera, allowing for further depth of personality.

 

Days Pass Strange is built upon a bedrock of repetitious themes and references. Referencing this many works of art and music runs the risk of turning off listeners that are not familiar with them. Lyrics are often repeated for effect, sometimes in German. One returning line throughout Days Pass Strange is the lyric, “Every day a blessing/every day a threat”. Flipping what could be a kitsch phrase from Bed Bath & Beyond wall art is a brilliant summary of the ideas on the album. Every day can be glorious, but when lived in a microcosm, as a marginalized person, each day can feel like constant terror. Days Pass Strange is an oversized pill, a bitter tonic, something difficult to swallow, but demands the listener do what is necessary for growth: give honest consideration to Aloe Vera’s perspective. No one is Aloe Vera aside from Aloe Vera, but for the runtime of this album, listeners are invited into their daily life. 

 

Days Pass Strange takes a stand, and that is probably one of the most provocative things it does. Its staunch positions force listeners to consider and potentially agree, or not. Listeners can tune in to find their own guilt and complicity in social institutions and structures which ultimately deprive others of an equal shot at sincere humanity. Asking anyone to admit they are wrong, let alone unintentionally complicit in the worst ills of society by the way they live moment to moment, is difficult to impossible. People that inherently view themselves as helping because they’re blacking out their IG or popping off on Twitter don’t tend to consider the efficacy of their daily choices and how those choices may run counter to what is posited as Good or Right. Aloe Vera has organized music festivals, protests, and ran a DIY venue to effect change. These are salient actions in their community that make a difference beyond making what could prove to be controversial art. They drive real change. Days Pass Strange, while often at odds with itself and the world, is an album that reflects the multitudes that can be contained within one person. For any serious fan of music, especially those in Columbus, this is a must listen.

 

Days Pass Strange is now available for purchase on Bandcamp, as well as streaming on Spotify and other major platforms.