MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2016 |
Posted by: Jacob Swindell-Sakoor
Hailing from Iceland, alternative four-piece, Kaleo, have been releasing music since 2013. With past singles gainng a considerable amount of traction that has culminated into their second studio album entitled A/B. With clear blues, soul, and country inspirations, is the world ready for an album that harkens back to something familiar but somewhat forgotten in the pop culture and mainstream circuits?
Opens with an slightly cliche blues guitar riff that turns into a mix of the familiar, along with a much needed dose of funk and natural reverb (but it's probably digital because who makes real stuff anymore folks). Ultimately, this song is monotonous until the short guitar solo begins carries the song into an explosive conclusion.
"WAY DOWN WE GO"
The sudden change of sonic mood between the first two songs is drastic. This transition isn't very seamless, but the song is still good. The arrangement is able to stay interesting since the hook on this song is everything. JJ Julius Son truly delivers a soulful performance on this track. It's almost as if the pain in his voice is able to resurrect emotions from a past love that he didn't even know he had.
"Broken Bones" takes clear inspiration from early blues labor songs. While the intro to this song and the vocal layering throughout is fantastic it just isnt able to instill the same amount of grit like the kind of songs they're trying to emulate on this track.
"Glass House" is where a really significant transition occurs in the album. After the dreariness of "Broken Bones," "Glass House" made me happy to be alive again. Equal parts montage worthy as it is upbeat and soulful, "Glass House" makes great usage of vocal layering to create a festival-worthy track. The guitar solo in this one is also downright vicious and smooth throughout. If you stumbled upon this review and had never heard of Kaleo then this is the track you should listen to first.
While "Hot Blood" is a little bit more of the same in terms of upbeat blues rock, this is the side of Kaleo that shines. The beginning of "Hot Blood" doesn't standout because it utilizes several of the same elements found in earlier tracks; Conjunct melodies, repetitive guitar riff and yawn worthy drums. However, this all changes in the second half of the song with the addition of a choir, introducing a new guitar lick, and having another breakdown of a lifetime. Kaleo once again proves that theyre masters of ending an energetic song with conviction.
"ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS"
This is the most unexpected track on A/B and hands down, the best one on the record. "All The Pretty Girls" sounds like it could be a bonus track on Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago and helps to prove that Kaleo can make diverse songs that experiment with a different production and vocal performance style. JJ is able to stay airy throughout the song when he needs to and towards the end, he introduces his soulful raspiness and makes you feel his desparation and disappointment.
On "Automobile" we find ourselves back in bluesville as we should since the song before drastically deviated from the bands signature style. "Automobile" tries to be a country song and for the most part it works. The main guitar is a little cheesy (as is the whistling at the end), but the lyrics are so damn catchy that I found myself not being so hard to please with this one. The lyrics are simple and the main vocal melody is so addictive that I walked away feeling mostly good from this one.
"VOR I VAGLASKOGI"
Vor I Vaglaskogi is another high point on the album as the band is able to marry a more blues leaning style with the ambient indie aesthetic that we've all come to know and love. This song hits all the marks. JJ's voice is as impactful as ever, the two different guitar riffs are panned on opposite ends of the stereo setup which helps to drive the songs emotion, and there's even a cello on this one. "Vor I Vaglaskogi" is Icelandic for Spring in Vaglaskogur and uses forest imagery to portray a love that most likely, won't last long. The addition of the cello really sets this track apart from every other one on the album.
With "Save Yourself" Kaleo finds themselves back into a country inspired groove with JJ's whispery falsetto switching back to his grounded tenor. "Save Yourself" is a fitting setup for the conclusion to an album and could have worked as the albums closer. The signature Kaleo ending of making the last minute feel massive, is again a noteworthy one.
I CAN'T GO ON WITHOUT YOU
On "I Cant Go On Without" You Kaleo goes for an extended final song as this one is about two minutes longer than most of the other tracks on this album. "I Can't Go On Without You" is a proper sendoff for an album that hits most of its marks. This song is a six minute epic but never drags on. Sure the chorus is a little cliche, but hey weve all felt like we couldnt live without someone at some point in our lives.
VERDICT: Ultimately A/B is a good record that deserves to be played. While it's not a masterpiece, it's still able to showcase the band's individual style and skill-set. If you want to listen to a quality blues inspired record (which you should) then you're going to find what you're looking for with A/B.
Also make sure to check out our session with Kaleo below.