Aloha - Home Acres
Record Label: Polyvinyl
Release Date: March 9, 2010
The ominous grayscale album cover of Home Acres, Aloha's sixth full-length on Polyvinyl, might be a bit misleading. While there are moments, like the album's opener "Building a Fire", that possess the suggested bleakness and foreboding, and while there's a definite sadness and disaffection in Tony Cavallario's smooth vocal, it's anything but a monochrome affair. It's musically complex and ambitious, but flashes of powerpop shine through, making this Aloha's hookiest effort to date. Its pop aspect is more nocturnal than sunny, though, with its colors showing subtly vivid in the twilight.
Easily accessible songs like "Moonless March" and "Searchlight" evoke shades of Matt Pond PA's indie-pop, and they're the type of songs that don't earn points for technicality as much as for execution and pure likability. Aloha are definitely at their best when they play up their rhythmic, mathy side in addition to supplying strong melodies, which is exactly what they do on the album's best track "Microviolence", whose texture and dynamic recall a less subversive Xiu Xiu. While it's unfortunately not representative of the record as a whole, there's certainly more than enough here to keep even the casual listener engaged.
The organ-led narcotic haze of "Everything Goes My Way" has a quiet, understated intensity that contrasts with the somewhat lighter fare that precedes it. "White Wind" and "Cold Storage" offer a mellowed-out aesthetic that bears similarities to the soft embrace of simple song structures that Yo La Tengo displayed on the first half of Popular Songs, with a vibe that's sophisticated and mildly atmospheric, though a bit nondescript. And therein lies the major complaint with Home Acres, if one exists: aside from "Microviolence" and "Waterwheel" (which is set apart with its crisp guitar tones, light synth accents and standout percussion), each track, in many ways, sounds like a solid tune by some faceless indie-rock band-- pleasant, but lacking a distinct identity.
Don't let me deceive you, though. From open to close, everything here is remarkably enjoyable and deserves a listen. I just suspect that when the fuzzy guitars of "Blackout" come up in one of my mixed playlists later this year, it'll prompt a response of, "That's a great song. Who is that by again?" Then again, when a record is so thoroughly satisfying, maybe it's just best to take it all in at once anyway.
I love this record. I'm sure it was a conscious choice to mix the vocal down that low but I don't think this is the music for that. He has such a fantastic voice. I like Isis and other similar bands mixing vocals down, just not these guys.