On 2005's I Sold Gold, David Terry's DIY indie-pop project Aqueduct matched Neil Young twang-and-lope with the soulfulness and invention of Stevie Wonder, and produced a sound so big and bent that it was often hard to hold. The new Aqueduct album Or Give Me Death unkinks a little, while retaining the monster hooks and pop-culture-addled lyrics that made I Sold Gold a favorite among fans of Beastie Boys and Pavement. At times, Terry seems to be making up words on the spot while taking a walk around his living room. How else to explain "As You Wish," a brassy love anthem that quotes liberally from The Princess Bride?
Terry's miniaturist inclinations don't always mesh with Aqueduct's increased technical polish, but it's tough to quibble with songs like "Living A Lie," where the complex guitar/drum pattern sounds like an analog version of electronica, or "Broken Records," where the buzzing I Love The '80s production is supported by a powerhouse melody that could stand up to any Hall & Oates hit. Aqueduct's cracks only become pronounced when Terry gives the full synthetic-symphony treatment to ideas best left in the practice space—like the chorus of "Keep It Together," with its liberal use of the word "bitch." At the same time, the gap between Terry's idle tone and his laser-focused arrangements gives Aqueduct its own style. In Or Give Me Death's opener, "Lying In The Bed I've Made," the percussive interplay of drums and piano provides a glassy surface to Terry's sleepy apology. "I've been a father to you all / in spite of what you've heard," he drawls, enticing listeners to lean in closer, curious about what he's going to say.