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Life…is A Fraction

Until recently, Boston-based prog leaning alt/power-pop/new wave trio Elsewhere had been best known for their single “Don’t You Believe Me Baby” – a dynamic cover of a previously unrecorded early 80’s Police song. That atypical release helped the band generate over half a million streams on Spotify and score a full-page story in the Boston Herald; forever tying the band to Sting & Co. (at least regionally). This was soon followed up by the “banthem” (ballad/anthem) “The Pledge”, mixed by Grammy Nominated producer Mark Needham (The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Pink, Elton John), which broke important ground by tackling the often-taboo subject of Alzheimer’s Disease

Elsewhere’s ambitious new concept album Life…is a Fraction shows the band has reached a creative zenith; an original rock epic that shakes the foundations not only of what everyone’s come to expect of the New England trio, but also of the lives of everyone who listens…

Influenced by front man Michael Aroian’s lifelong passion for Rush and particularly their 1978 classic album Hemispheres, as well as the early Genesis catalogue (Aroian was a past winner of a Peter Gabriel Fans Facebook page singing contest) the new collection, produced by long-time collaborator David Minehan (Replacements, Aerosmith), weaves together a fascinating, semi-autobiographical narrative about how our perception of time shifts as we grow older. Days, months, and years seem to speed up… until a frightening, life changing diagnosis – and being forced to face mortality – changes everything once again. The record is based on the cancer diagnosis Aroian received some years back, which served as a defining point in his life.

Unlike some progressive rock albums that seem to span ages as they unwind similar personal yet universal philosophical themes, Aroian and his cohorts (bassist Kevin Swaluk and drummer Adam Soucy) share their journey in an economical, hard hitting 34 minutes. After the main ten song cycle, the album ends with Elsewhere’s most recent popular singles from 2020-21, “Call You Out” and the aforementioned “The Pledge”.

“I became cognizant of relative time in my 30s,” he says. “The idea behind Life…is a Fraction is that at any age, we have only lived a fraction of our lifespan. When you’re five, you’ve maybe lived 1/16th of say, 80 years. When we’re children, life events seem to take much longer because we’ve only lived a very small part of an average life. In this fraction, the numerator is the number of days you have lived, and the denominator the total number you will ultimately live. In the story we tell on the album, as in my own life, the protagonist’s denominator is potentially cut short by getting sick. It sped everything up, and he, like I, was suddenly able to see time move. The more days that go by, the faster time seems to go as we rapidly approach our denominator.”

That might sound like a lot to process if Aroian was a professor giving a lecture; fortunately, he, Swaluk and Soucy are veteran musicians who bring alternately intensely and soulful goods to our ears as we navigate Aroian’s tight, high impact lyrics (song titles that begin with roman numerals serve as chapters, in a nod to classical music and progressive rock epics of the past.)

As the protagonist wanders through life before being brutally confronted with his own mortality, he explores various options – face it, embrace it, defy it. Through it all, Life…is a Fraction teeters precariously on the edge of sanity. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, I experienced this first-hand,” says Aroian. “My denominator was reduced. I now literally live it every day. Time is indeed fleeting and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we can take control and live each day to the fullest. The tragedy is not that this is happening to us, but that we might not learn from it or do anything proactive or meaningful about it.”

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