10 ago 2012

Allo Darlin': Europe

Review by Tim Sendra Anyone hoping for more ukulele on Allo Darlin's second album Europe might be a little disappointed but it should only be a mild let-down because anyone who has already fallen under the tender spell of Elizabeth Morris' songwriting and the band's gentle music will be pleased as punch. The album is just as sweet, melodic, and memorable as their self-titled debut but also a little more together and focused sounding. A majority of the songs have a vastly increased amount of bounce and kick, and many, like the super hooky "Capricornia," the almost hard rocking "The Letter," and "Northern Lights," sound like would-be favorites at an indie disco. The band's sound is built around steadily strumming guitars, the occasional uke, and a happily swinging rhythm section that sounds great on the uptempo tracks and quite sensitive on the rest. On top are Paul Rains' jangling guitar lines that occasionally drift into nicely distorted territory and Morris' distinctive vocals. She's able to transmit all kinds of emotion and nuance through her voice without getting all showy or overblown as she mostly just sticks to the melodies and her confessional lyrics, letting them do the heavy lifting. And despite the sweet and peppy sound the band delivers throughout, the words are a heartbroken and melancholy mess that read like tear-stained letters to a recently lost lover. While the first record felt like it was lived, written, and recorded in the same tiny apartment, Europe sounds like it was written all over the world. There are references to Sweden, New York, the Caribbean, and the moon, and it feels much wider in scope and deeper in emotion overall. That Morris manages to up the stakes without losing any homespun charm is impressive; that she buries the uke (except on "Tallulah" an affecting uke and vocal duet) in the mix is even better. Its use threatened to become a gimmick and the songs and performances on Europe are way too strong for people to write them off as novelties. As it stands, Allo Darlin' are as serious as it gets, and despite the lightness and sweetness, they are sophisticated pop music at its finest.

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