Amateur Radio Operator
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Amateur Radio Operator

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF
Band Rock Folk




"A rich debut of immensity and vitality"

There is a relief which comes with the sinister depth of Sirens of Titan. It's finding humanity in rust. As singer Mark Johnson sings on "No Como Los (Bottom Feeders)", "Life is in the small places you'll go". Among the sombre tones and dark hues of ARO's musical landscape there arises a brimming beauty that slips in through the cracks of your soul. Given a thorough listen ARO can become more than just comfortable, they become vastly intriguing, even uplifting.

ARO's music accentuates the feeling of distance. Not only is the lyrical content familiar with desires, dreams, and memories - perhaps even death - the album is plays deception with distance. The album begins like a tired whisper then unfolds into an encompassing aura. By the ninth track, "Rest Stop", I was inside the music; familiar with the lightness of the drums, the angelic pitch of Mark Johnson, the celestial reverb of the guitars, and the sudden shifts into treacherous territory, throwing me off into areas of isolation and solitude.

A rich debut of immensity and vitality, fresh with potential and ripe with possibility. Listeners of Radiohead, Wilco, and the Great Lake Swimmers will find something interesting here. Take a deep listen through this album, and you may find the skin of your contempt shed like a dark cloud.
- Lucid Forge

"For weary travelers and forlorn dreamers"

This record makes perfect late night, candle lit listening but be warned its not for the faint hearted or easily spooked. 'Watershed' kicks of the albums' un-easy listening feel in a track reminicent of REMs 'Country Feedback'.

'Canvas Bag' builds subtley and stylishly on a shuffle beat. Singer, Mark Johnson has a voice like a cross between Mark Arm and Sigur Ros' Jonsi.

Dead Air (Sirens of Titan) sees enigmatic shimmering noises crash like waves onto its shores. 'Milo' has great pillars of guitar framing a fragile tale. A gloriously flowing number reminicent of Gish era Smashing Pumpkins, only cooler.
- Americana UK

"Music reviews worth listening to"

Reviewer: Trent Depue

It doesn’t take any longer than a few chords of Sirens of Titan’s opening track ‘Watershed’ to realize that you’re going to be in for quite a treat on this, the debut album from Seattle-based Amateur Radio Operator. Immediately captivating, and the record’s best track, it sets a precedent that instills a sense of wonder that will keep the listener guessing what comes next for the entirety of the record.

Amateur Radio Operator possess two distinct qualities that are the driving force behind Sirens of Titan, which combines aspects of alternative-country and rock. Firstly, the haunting vocals of lead singer Mark Johnson, whose voice bears a striking resemblance to that of Neil Young, and second, the distinctive musical work by Jenna Conrad and Kevin Suggs on cello and pedal steel. And while both of these instruments serve to add a degree of richness to material that has a generally darker atmosphere to it, the rest of the musicianship is not without its own charm.

As a whole, Sirens of Titan is magnetic in both musical originality and lyricism. One of the verses from the record’s title track states that, “A midnight DJ plays a song from her favorite unknown band / and it wakes you up from your winter dream / and brings the dead air back to life.” Autobiographical in a sense, Sirens of Titan possesses all the qualities to do just that.
- Music-Critic.CA

"Haunted, dark, and beautiful, by Gordon B. Isnor"

Amateur Radio Operator are a country rock band from Seattle that have a lonesome desert sound that recalls Neil Young, Uncle Tupelo, Dinosaur Jr and even the mournful quality of Kurt Cobain. There's a lot of music in this vein these days but the group distinguishes itself from the pack with haunting vocals that sound close to Neil Young and a very moody, sad and lonely sound that
almost brings the group into the dark-folk territory.
The group employs very interesting production techniques like the marching wah-wah drums sound on "Dead AIr (Sirens of Titan)" that sound unlike anything I've ever heard and very cool. Jimi Hendrix would be jealous. These production ideas go hand in hand with excellent recording and the two combine to make the album an enjoyable listen from start to finish. Pretty pedal steel placed tastefully throughout the album really knocks it out of the park.
Fans of Neil Young, lonesome Appalachian folk, Uncle Tupelo and the general alt-country rock scene will find this immediately likeable. If that's not enough
to make you curious, it's also worth nothing the 'cover' of Minor Threat's
"Screaming At A Wall" - so completely disconnected from their original that it bears comparison to the recent Dirty Projectors' Black Flag redo, "RiseAbove".

Haunted, dark and beautiful.
- Left Hip Magazine

"The Lonesome Plight of Inventors"

The lonesome plight of inventors: weeks spent turning dials, tweaking switchboards; adjusting the signal so that the constant buzzing stream hits a pocket, and, as if for the first time, you hear a voice. It is faint and speaking another language, but it is a voice, and for now that is enough.

Amateur Radio Operator's album Sirens of Titan exemplifies the soft moments inside a mind otherwise troubled with creations. Part folk, part indie, the songs in this album could be described as the quiet wave of thoughts slipping away from a genius at work. For as anyone who's written or painted or created anything knows, the thinking mind is a pressure cooker, and the steam can be just as wonderful as what's boiling beneath the lid.

But isn't that just the sort of talent we expect out of a Seattle band these days? Yes, actually, it is. And ARO does not disappoint. Mark Johnson's vocals seem to exist inside their own echo. They're at once brazen and furtive: flirting with the listener from a distance, then boldly grabbing by the ears anyone who will listen.

On their MySpace page, they list among their interests walking in the dark, footprints, and water towers. Things that conjure images of wandering through the quiet streets of some forgotten suburbia: images familiar to any boy or girl who grew up outside any major metropolitan area. There are some empty spaces where you feel that if you were to take a moment's pause, the world truly would waltz past, listless and distracted.

Johnson's singing is complimented by the rest of ARO: musicians who succeed not only in creating a great record, but also in crafting a sense of space. At no point in Sirens of Titan does the sound stumble or become awkward. Every snare beat is exactly where it should be, and the harmonies created between guitar, bass, and cello are enough to make the dark footprints and water towers seem like more than remnants.
- Duck & Cover

"The perfect storm of rock-n-roll woe"

Even though they hail from Seattle, Washington, Amateur Radio Operator has the air of Southern Gothic usually reserved for the likes of R.E.M. or Flannery O'Connor. Their music is a blend of alternative country and depressed college rock, and it has little in common with the sounds we've come to associate with Seattle, and thankfully so. You'd almost guess that they crawled out of the woods of south Georgia.

The songs are built around lonely themes, and the instrumentation involves the usual guitar, bass, and drums along with cello and pedal steel, adding the "depth" of classic country music. Vocalist Mark Johnson adds his melancholy wails into the mix to create the perfect storm of rock-n-roll woe. Feel good album of the year? Maybe not, but it's the first album you'll want to reach for this winter on a cold rainy day. - Mish Mash

"Big Takeover Magazine"

No Depression readers hear plenty of Alt. Country, but nothing like
this! On this debut, Seattle's ARO and frontman Mark Johnson might
remind of My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses. (Bassist Chris Early
was in the latter.) But Johnson's influence isn't 40-year-old country
rock; it goes back a century to old folk, field recording blues, and
country 78s—played like modern indie rock. Johnson moved to Washington from Georgia, and the decay of the post-war South leaks from these laconic songs via pedal steel by excellent producer Kevin Suggs (who has played it with The Shins, Colin Spring, Rocky Vololato, his own Evageline, etc.). Johnson's so confident in this transformation, he takes the breakneck 1981 Minor Threat thrash song "Screaming at a
Wall" and pretends Johnny Cash wrote it and Neil Young sang it (like
Chris Bailey's cover of John Phillips' "Me and My Uncle"). Woah! - Jack Rabid


Debut Album 'Sirens of Titan' released in 2008. Watershed, Bottle Trees, Milo, No Como Los, and Canvas bag are being played on CMJ/AAA radio stations across the US. NW Radio- #27 KEXP, #10 Rainy Dawg, #5 add KSUB, #1 add KZUU. Currently working on followup full length album 'Pharaohs of the Sun' due in Summer 2011.



Created by a dense, multitalented cohort of contributors, ARO harkens the haunting
old-time aura of the Louvin brothers, Doc Boggs, and the Carter Family, in the modern vein of weary travelers and forlorn dreamers‌ lonesome, wondering, wandering with a voice of hope in the rising sun.

Perfect for a hot, sunny afternoon in the shade or in the middle of a long, confusing night, ARO's cinematic sound takes the listener somewhere between here and there, quilting them in warm tone and carrying them home.

The band has played the new Crocodile, Tractor Tavern, Sunset, High Dive and Comet Tavern in Seattle, and the White Eagle in Portland as well as various summer festivals in the region.

Band Members