Little Windows Cut Right Through
Aloha. I can’t help but to think of a billboard advertisement off the highway for a place that doesn’t exist, or perhaps once did. It is what it is, a memory that has been replaced and implanted into the mind of another. Currently based in the steel city of Pittsburgh, they have been playing together for nearly two decades, and have lived and recorded in various locations across the country since their inception. I don’t have any prior knowledge of them or know what any of their other records sound like, other than a few skimmed listens here and there, but I can’t imagine any of them living up to or having nearly as much of an impact as this one.
Bursting at the seams with elegantly rendered hooks accompanied by simple, complex lyrics that invoke powerful thought and are evident of a painstakingly cultivated earworm factory. After one listen you feel like, or at least pretend to, know the words to every song and catch yourself singing along before the record is over. Music like this usually makes me feel empty, desperately struggling to occupy some kind of narcissistic void, but I sense a deep genuine awareness of the world and other people participating in it. Nothing is closed off or too personal. I am reminded of a misanthropic lounge singer in an abandoned club, shackled to the stage and doomed to sing for all of eternity, or until their lungs stop working.
Aloha spans a range, challenging the need to change versus the desire to not. We are presented with an introduction to atonement, from the desperately hopeful “Signal Drift” to building castles in the air on “Faraway Eyes,” which sounds like a retro inferno met by the overcast of a summer haze, beaten into submission by fantasy, there is an upbeat dreariness intact to the daydream. Meanwhile, “Ocean Street” echoes a chilling account to the pleasure and act of drowning, drenched wet with cold sweat, submerged and overtaken by the rain. Aloha gives us and them a taste of suffering with storytelling filtered through the drain “Moon Man” and the more wracked with empathy “Flight Risk”, dizzying into the dark pit of a synthesized environment “One Hundred Million” lingers on a modest though unabashed opus waving someone off to the others.
All of the smallest details matter. Rightfully so, the airbrushed beyond recognition pop melancholia reveals in time a microcosm through the cracks, a real distinguished sense of place. Tinkering with convention – instruments that might otherwise be off limits to some – orchestral hymns are crafted to compliment the tension of the narrative. Laying the foundation for tracks like “Swinging for the Fences” which seemingly innocuous and mesmerizing do not function without sadness, as the lyrics would indicate, while the closing song “I Heard You Laughing” sports an exit theme for an imagined victory, excavating ancient keyboards in an attempt to throw the race and fail gracefully.
Here are your roses now sober up. Little windows cut right through with a blinding kaleidoscopic light that pierces and pulls your marionette strings out of the wake of a dream. Everything is fuzzy, dated, and easily misinterpreted, but has a familiar vintage quality to it like a box of home movies that have been water damaged, slowly rotting in the basement, collecting dust and other fragments. The only way to access the memory is by running it through a projector, imperfections along with everything else, or to throw it away and move on. In any case, another days work in the trash. (Stephen Proski)