Adrian Aardvark, '2018' | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Adrian Aardvark, '2018'

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Published December 21, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


Adrian Aardvark, 2018 - COURTESY
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  • Adrian Aardvark, 2018

(Hidden Magic, digital)

Plattsburgh, N.Y.'s Christopher Jay Rigsbee, who makes music through his long-running freak-folk project, Adrian Aardvark, has nothing left to hide with his new album, 2018. In an email to Seven Days, the singer-songwriter revealed his behind-the-scenes struggles from 2018 through 2020, the years when this music was recorded: He lost close friends to suicide and a drug overdose, he got divorced, and his own substance abuse landed him in rehab. It's a lot to process — for the creator and his audience.

Not knowing the extent to which Rigsbee's addiction affected the people in his life makes it hard for me to champion the album, or him as an artist. He admits that his choices and behavior led to the band's breakup and that this album is likely the last of Adrian Aardvark. Sober for four months, according to Rigsbee, he seems to be on the right track and getting the help he needs. May he continue that way.

Rigsbee's pain gushes out of 2018's 14 tracks, aided by a band that includes multi-instrumentalists Catherine Harrison-Wurster and Chris Lee Shacklett, plus Burlington producer and engineer Chris Shar, another multi-instrumentalist whose credits include indie acts Man Man and Santigold.

Rigsbee's voice is strangled and weary as he sings of restlessness and despair. Even the brighter-sounding cuts — such as opener "Self Fulfilling Prophecy" with its gleaming classic rock organ — devolve into dirge-like elegies with yelping lyrics obscured by an exaggerated delivery.

On "Living Funeral," a song swollen with strings and gritty acoustic guitar, Rigsbee chokes out a case for his depression: "It's hard enough to keep these meaningless jobs / When everyone asks, 'What do you do?' / And I find it hard not to respond truthfully / Cuz every single day I try not to end my own life." Are lyrics like these brave or self-indulgent? Are those things mutually exclusive? Hard to say.

Taken purely as art, minus the personal context, 2018 presents some stimulating musical ideas. Instrumental "Scorched Earth" plunks out overdriven bleeps above an eerie backdrop of flexing strings. Another wordless cut, "Hatching and Growing," is a mechanized exercise in metallic percussion. Its clattering sounds clack and clink like machines on a factory floor operated by Dr. Seuss.

And then there are bewildering tracks such as "Hazzit," an acoustic-punk thrasher with a maritime melody (played on melodica?). "You're a fucking toaster oven," Rigsbee declares through tight lips. The song's broken syntax ("I don't want to has something / But I know I gots to has it") adds whimsy, but the song is largely baffling.

Adrian Aardvark were prolific in the past decade, so I imagine it's hard for Rigsbee to let the project go. But if hanging up the moniker means he can move beyond the toxic life choices that accompanied it, I'd say that's a win. Rest in peace, Adrian Aardvark. And good luck, Christopher Jay Rigsbee.

2018 is available at adrianaardvark.bandcamp.com.