Some Echoes

(Polyvinyl; 2006)

By David Greenwald | 21 October 2007

In the city of Chicago, there’s a small subgenre of indie bands who draw from otherwise untapped resources; Sam Prekop and his band The Sea and Cake are among them, as are the lesser known (but no less fantastic) Ancient Greeks. These are groups as influenced by the bossa nova of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa as they are by Talking Heads and Mission of Burma. Ohio's Aloha take a similar approach to their indie-rock, and on their newest record again fuse disparate musical elements into spidery pop songs full of melody and careful intensity.

Aloha approaches its music with a kind of post-punk reconstructionism, with each instrument and segment part of a greater architecture. The songs are structured on traditional verse/chorus forms, but while they’re generally jam-free, there’s no rush to get from section to section. Tony Cavallario has the kind of gloriously pure midrange voice with which Jim McIntyre led the short-lived Sea Snakes, the same one which Ben Gibbard has squandered with over-enunciation and cheerleader enthusiasm. The foundation of many of the songs is the percussion, and drummer Cale Park’s rhythms are agile, rapid-fire bursts as stomping as they are quick.

All the materials are in place on the opening “Brace Your Face,” the drums playing off the 4/4 beat carried by Matthew Gengler’s bass line. The band’s rockist tendencies are kept to a minimum, making the rare guitar chords more cathartic when they appear in the song’s bridge as Cavallario sings “I got a feeling it can never be / the way you thought it would be.” “Come Home” settles into an easy tropicalia groove before ascending into a string-laden conclusion. “Align Your Eyes” and “Weekend” are more pop-driven, reminders of the strength of Cavallario’s melodies, but “Weekend,” too, plays with tension: a wavering electric guitar tone plays under the chorus, threatening to crackle into feedback at any second.

Much more so than on the band’s previous releases, Some Echoes is a consciously designed web of interlocking Tinkertoys. Each moment is devoted to the continuing shifts in dynamics and song, and Aloha sounds sharper than ever before. Even in “Ice Storming,” the album’s token ballad, the ghostly harmonies and sonic textures are as engrossing as Cavallario listening “for cracks in the ice” and Parks choosing again to play around the tempo, taking advantage of the song’s waltzing to play with space. It’s the drums that draw the most attention on “Mountain,” the album’s final track, thanks to their crisp place in the mix as well as their throbbing rhythmic intensity. Unlike many of the album’s tracks, though, this one doesn’t finish climactically. When it ends, it leaves you wanting more. Thankfully, Some Echoes is just as good the next time around.