Air Traffic Controller – NordoPosted by Ashleen Aguilar
Remember when pop-punk was kind of a legitimate genre for people outside of the preteen girl demographic? That was a few years ago – certainly pre-2010’s. Air Traffic Controller’s latest album, Nordo, may be coming on the scene a few years late, but it has the charge to help defibrillate the genre.
ATC’s lead songwriter Dave Munro started writing songs while serving as an air traffic controller in the U.S. Navy. He would send demos home to Boston, and when Munro got back, a fan base had popped up insisting on more. His first proper album, 2010’s The One, had a cool mellow, folksy bent sweetened with pop rock. Nordo follows in a similar vein, adding in an extra spoonful of pop hooks where appropriate.
Munro creates his own Pop Culture Trivial Pursuit in several songs, using famous movie phrases as inspiration for the songs’ themes. “If you build it / they will come / Can you remember where that line came from? / It was a movie / as I recall it in a baseball field,” (“If You Build It”) refers to the Kevin Costner film “Field of Dreams.” “I heard someone say / do or do not / There is no try / People could die,” (“The Work”) quotes the Star Wars’ Yoda. But while his lyrics are seeped in pop culture references, Munro finds parallels in these words of wisdom to his own life.
The first single off Nordo is similarly autobiographical. It’s easy for a listener to relate to the jam-packed “Hurry Hurry” – we all know what it’s like to have a million things to do. The quick rhythms in the lyrics, echoed in the percussion, create tension which is then alleviated with pop hooks and playful keys. But Nordo is a team effort, and Munro does well using his bandmates’ talents to spice up the tracklist. He shares vocals with Casey Sullivan on the duets “You Know Me” and “Any Way.” Steve Scott’s compositions find their ways onto the album in “Blame” and “Ready or Not.”
At times, Nordo can lead the listener through the day of an overwhelmed, uncertain man, and at others, it can take you on a mosey around a park. But by embracing the things his bandmates bring to the table, Munro took just enough of a step forward to showcase his growth while hanging on to the qualities that originally caught peoples’ attention. This is the moment to enjoy an artist on the brink, because his next step forward could turn into a leap.