Aaron Sprinkle has been an inherent part of the alt-Christian music scene, having contributed to it as much as a producer as an artist. He has fronted three successful bands (one of which is still active) in addition to his current solo career. He has seen more than a fair share of album releases, the most recent, Real Life, is his own. It’s his fourth solo effort and likely to be remembered as one of the most beguiling yet.
As a whole, Real Life is a matured analysis of the inevitable struggles in humanity’s shared path. As would be expected from Sprinkle, it follows that there is also an offered alternative to folding to the pain, a hint of cleaving to something (or someone) greater than oneself. Call it faith, call it inner strength, it’s the choice to rise up (rather than give in) he professes. Sprinkle was sure to keep that vague nature present for a more universal appeal it seems, and he made it work without being too generic. His soothing mid-range vocal styling is consistent, serving as a comfortable vessel for the life lessons delivered in the lyrics.
Although the new electro-pop hybrid album lacks the bare simplicity of 2004’s Lackluster, Real Life has a dubbed-up energy similar to Sprinkle’s more recent work, Water and Guns, from 2013. Having multiple guest spots by artists from bands like Eisley, Say Anything, and Poema was a great way to add some vocal contrast, as well as preserve the collaboration ethos that Sprinkle embodies.
Lyrically, the songs are each a good story, but the album’s draw is largely in the sonic details. The vocal inflections (like in the beautifully executed “I Don’t Know Who You Are”) and the way subtle effects are used to complement-without-overtaking the vocals is truly masterful. They’re done in a way that is difficult to capture without losing the substance of the song. The bass drops are perfectly placed and the builds tend to cut into an exciting, but controlled, electro-crescendo the way a true songwriter can orchestrate. Only an ear trained for production would commit such an added level of attention, and none is more practiced at this art than Sprinkle.
With many years under his belt, Sprinkle’s seen the shift of not one but two decades of musical generations, fads and genre shifts. With each record he released or recorded, he has always been sure that the end product was as current and relevant as it was quality controlled. Real Life is not an exception. Although it shouldn’t be assumed that the sound of this album will be the blueprint for Sprinkle’s coming work, but, with an expansive discography as a predictor, we can be sure that Real Life will influence his direction to come, whichever way that may lead — and the future sounds great.