Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: The Alcove - Never Looking Back

Whenever you visit a friend at his home, about the only thing you ask of him is to make you feel comfortable, at ease. Not so hard, right? Unless he's insane and treats his guests like Leatherface would, you're probably safe to assume such things. Same goes for music. You're not literally in someones home when you listen to an album, but it's similar in that you have the right to want to feel at peace while listening to it. Never Looking Back, a new album by The Alcove, tried hard to deliver this.

Genre wise, they're relatively generic, mixing a basic indie-rock vibe with an old school pop mentality. If you use the word 'pop' today, most people think of those abominations One Direction, but it's really meant to describe a jangly vibe. This might also be one of the first bands I've reviewed that also seem like they're genuinely happy people, which, don't worry, doesn't totally count against them. It's unmistakable how upbeat they are, and it shows in the music. Maybe they're all grumpy people who would rather see my head on a spike, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. 

"Travelling On" and "Are You Cold?" stand out as their most complete pieces, emphasizing a desire to turn those frowns upside down (Did I really just write that? Shit.). Again, they come off as chipper, but at least they didn't like it block their song-writing abilities, which they have in spades. "Travelling On" sounds like a ska-band hijacked by Belle And Sebastian, with an uptick to the guitar that feels more at home played by a dude with a checkered belt. It's not all the prevalent in the song, but it still had me questioning it's usage, more so because it felt like they were winging it instead of playing a part they'd prepared. But with "Are You Cold?", the uptick works better, and feels more attached to the song it's accompanying. This is really a minor detail, as both these songs are solid, it's just worth mentioning the momentary displaced feeling I had.

While they do have a 'sound', they tweak it just enough throughout the EP to not make it grating. "Summer Haze" feels like the illegitimate child between reggae and dream-pop, a little bit Marley, a little bit Soundlab. An interesting mash up of genres to be sure, but it didn't quite work for me on this one (It's the first time I've heard the mash up too, so, not a good start). While "Lisbon" closes out the EP with a solid track, theother 2 tracks on the EP, "Cheers" and "Growing Pains" never amount to much, succumbing to their weak song structures and style choices.

Maybe the title of their EP was telling me something as I listened to it. I actually can't be too harsh on it, since I liked half the songs on it, which is a lot more than some albums I still claim to 'like' have. But there is an undeniable spirit to the music that is missing here, an awkward feeling I couldn't seem to shake. Once they stick with a voice to their music and pursue it better, they've got the chance to be a very decent pop group, but for now, I feel like I've intruded into a house I was invited to in the first place. - Shane

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