There’s no denying the significant uptick for the novel Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, especially the television miniseries based on it. It is a different narrative journey I’m not used to taking; though I am used to reading through interviews all my life, it felt like two distinct worlds colliding. However, one thing that did stand out while reading the novel was the details within the creation of this album that felt grandiose as if we were getting something akin to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac or Don’t Shoot Me I’m The Piano Player by Elton John yet as I took the time to sit back and relish in the attempt to realize that album, titled, Aurora. As the album kept playing and playing, the melodies struck beautifully – guitar strings strum with fluid range – the writing and performances are substantially rich – but with what rounds out the edges, I couldn’t hear what the novel wanted to convey about its musical layers. It treads familiar waters within the safer waters of Soft-Rock, never seeming to do something meticulously unique. Listening to it, with or without background knowledge of the characters, you get a solid rock album with quality replay value.
With direct nuance and nostalgia to the subtle underlinings of its 70s era, Aurora captures the essence of what influenced it, specifically, the music of Fleetwood Mac and their wayward yet delicate string orchestrations that emboldened their harmonies and melodies, like the acoustics of “Two Against Three” or “Look At Us Now (Honeycomb).” There are fantastic highs like them and calming middle-of-the-pack work that comes from this over-sizzling of decisions, like when it rides a rhythm for too long on “Kill You To Try,” making the outro feel slightly forgotten. It’s unlike the frenetic and lavish rock stylings of tracks like “More To Miss” or “Please,” where it doesn’t slightly overstay its welcome, delivering more profound musicality, especially the former “More To Miss,” which blends unique string layers from guitars and bass. Produced by Blake Mills, Aurora achieves its goal of delivering a capsule to the past, orchestrating these whimsically fantastic but sometimes standard, polished arrangements that get predominately outshone by the vocal performances. It leaves you with an essence of the past, yet it doesn’t feel significantly unique, even if it isn’t a bad album, and more just there with a larger sliver of greatness.
It feels like a layaway from the 70s as it looks to hit the nail squarely within the gravitational pull of nostalgia. But the music is sensibly modern but keeps its roots tethered to the operatic atmosphere of a studio construction, allowing the performance to be driven by visualizing space within one’s inflections as we hear with the powerful “Regret Me,” or the smooth cadences of “Let Me Down Easy.” Aurora is an album that rides the coats of its vocals because the profoundness articulated in the novel Daisy Jones & The Six isn’t fully heard consistently except for in the performances. Sung by lead actor and actress Sam Claflin and Riley Keough, they have natural essence to their voice, feeling more grounded, and for a few, it might be expected, especially knowing Claflin’s background with theater and Keough’s own lineage/life, respectively. Keough grew up around music, whether through the legacy of her grandfather Elvis Pressley or the musical ventures of her mother, Lisa Marie Pressley, so it felt sort of made for her; Claflin studied theater and drama, and if you didn’t know that… well, Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games can sing.
Easily put, Aurora is loose and focused on what it wants to be that it’s volleying an inconsistent everlong game between two styles. What I mean by that is whenever the album teeters between Rock and Soft-Rock/Pop, there aren’t many moments where the whole song feels pure as other times, you’re gravitating to ranging emotional delivery or the orchestration, where it’s the minimal stuff that lights up the stage, whether it’s a specific guitar lick or the synchronization of the two rhythms, or the soaring energy within the choruses. In the Riley Keough-driven performance of “Two Against Three,” the tempered vocals erupt once it arrives at the hook; the hook clutches you in the emotional gut and starts pulling harder and harder, similar to that of “Please,” except “Please” has more power within the chorus. It’s bolstered by the luscious cymbals coating the fluid strings and percussion layers, continuing the more boisterous notes of the track that precedes and succeeds it, including its distinct flair compared to others.
As the author of Daisy Jones would tell Rolling Stone magazine, “We finally have AURORA. A stunning, nostalgic, timeless album that captures the drama, pathos, and yearning of the band’s zenith and nadir all in one. A snapshot of time, intoxicating and dangerous. That delicious moment that you know can’t last… Daisy Jones & The Six are real. And they are better than my wildest dreams.” I’d downplay the word stunning, and I concur, especially not having seen the miniseries and reading the book. By understanding the heavy Fleetwood Mac influence that guided Taylor Jenkins Reid in writing the novel, it wasn’t hard to see the parallels, and sometimes, it’s that little bit that makes the production feel more replicative instead of inspired, aside from the vocals, the strings, and polished mixing. I thoroughly enjoyed this, even with its pivots into a less-than-stellar territory; give it a few listens, read the book, and watch the show if you’re a fan of the first two; I know I will be.