This week on the review rack we have some great music from across the pond: the self-titled, freshman effort of Allo Darlin’, a U.K.-based band with folk and pop inclinations.
It’s rare to have such a well-polished first effort from a newcomer, and while this isn’t the sort of catchy music you’re likely to hear on top 40 radio (either from the U.S. or the U.K.), none of the songs off “Allo Darlin’” stand out as singles. They are all equally good, and best of all, they’re fun to listen to.
This is an ease-into-fall album: nothing too over the top or experimental, but it’s extraordinarily comforting music.
In listening to an album these days, there’s often a bit of judgment from any newer band — a sort of uppity, in-your-face, we’re-artists-and-so-we-know-what-the-world-is-really-like, angsty, teenage one-upmanship. I suppose it’s the lack of this rebellion in “Allo Darlin’” that partially accounts for why it’s so cheerful.
There’s a childlike innocence captured here in “Allo Darlin’,” and it’s nothing if not charming. Brilliantly optimistic and possessing the fluff and vocabulary of a teenage girl’s diary, Allo Darlin’ reminds us of why we like unpretentious music.
As with anything that’s well-made, it’s incredibly difficult to find a “single” in this album. However, there are a few tracks that stand out above the rest as not necessarily the most refined but certainly as the most interesting: “Kiss Your Lips,” “The Polaroid Song,” “Heartbeat Chilli,” and Allo Darlin’s magnum opus “Let’s Go Swimming” are songs worth giving a first listen to.
My favorite track of this album would certainly have to be “Let’s Go Swimming,” which has a definite, American country twang to it, although overall it sounds like a combination of Midwestern influences and West-coast beach breeziness. It’s a meeting of different genres, there are influences from Belle and Sebastien, the twang of The Cure’s guitars, the vocals of Club 8 and a bit of the trippy soundscapes of Boards of Canada or Great Lake Swimmers. It’s got a bit of every sound tailored into a single track, and it’s a full-bodied showcase of the band’s musical potential.
This being a first album, there are some rough bits that could use some polishing out; the lyrics in most songs on this LP are crammed into the music or are merely overlaid, as if both music and lyrics are unaware of each other. This works, in a way, but the lyrics usually make little sense, anyway, or are downright sinister in some cases. Perhaps it’s best that we don’t notice them, such as with “Heartbeat Chilli”: “It seems silly, but spaghetti has two heartbeats in the recipe/so come over and give your heart to me.” Awkward and slightly creepy.
If there is a second, hopelessly Achaean flaw about Allo Darlin’, it’s Elizabeth Morris’ and Paul Rain’s strange vocal choices, which occasionally backfire with results that will make the more cultured listener’s ears hurt from the funky discord.
This is best illustrated with “Dreaming,” the opening track. Starting mid-range, Morris’ vocals build pleasantly higher with the instrumental backing, and this seems like a good song initially — that is until Paul Rain’s deep, bassy voice awkwardly breaks in, without either singer attempting to harmonize with the other. This track is out of place given the gentle tone of the rest of the album. Abrupt and discombobulated, it is this album’s single greatest disappointment.
Overall, this is a great album, with a few, small weak spots. This is not life-changing music; you aren’t likely to find some poetic wisdom in the lyrics, but it makes the listener happy, and what’s not to like about that?
Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear Allo Darlin’s debut album.