Aloha Home Acres

[Polyvinyl; 2010]

Styles: post-rock, indie-pop, emo-prog
Others: Yeasayer, Passion Pit, White Williams

I was genuinely excited when I first heard Aloha’s 2004 album, Here Comes Everyone. I felt like post-rock didn’t just fizzle out, that it had gone somewhere, that this record was the game-saving conclusion. Post-rock had all the makings to follow in the footsteps of jazz-fusion in the 70s, and here it was straight from Cleveland injecting strong, emotional song into the proggish leanings of non-coastal America’s sound. It was refreshing. The Philip Glass-esque “Water Your Hands” was lovely, and the song structures of “Perry Como Gold” were ambitiously poetic. Alas, someone must have made fun of these guys in the locker room at Polyvinyl. Somebody must have called them Rush geeks and snapped a towel at them again. Aloha has decided to strip it back, make it simple, bringing it all back to Home Acres.

While stripping back the instrumentation, so went some of the ambitious structures and much of the angularity that draws the ear into their gorgeous textures. But the effusiveness cripple those textures to being more akin to Peter Gabriel or U2 mining, and I mean that for emo, not for Eno. There’s no eyeliner on this release, no shock and awe, just tears. Making this release seem even more inconsistent by comparison are the moments when the band follows its tried-and-true recipes and it actually works.

The opening track “Building A Fire” crackles in, as the title would suggest, and is a great exposition. But once the second track, “Microviolence,” starts, it doesn’t let down until the melody enters, which unfortunately causes it to go off into emotional Foo Fighters territory. Yes, that sounds harsh, but I just can’t wrap my head around the lushly composed music and fairly fiery performances, coupled with such mindless and monotonous melodies. It’s like I’m a 13-year-old girl out on a date with Aloha: Aloha picks me an exotic tropical flower, and it is gorgeous and I love it and it is a great moment. Then Aloha starts reciting this poem about me and the flowers in the moonlight, and it gets kind of awkward for both of us.

Plenty of swell moments pepper the ears, however. “Searchlight” seems telling that Aloha wouldn’t mind having a hit. I’m not going to suggest they are off chasing platinum, but The Jonas Brothers could polish this pop-slice up and call it a day. No prickly moments, yet they thankfully seem more focused and determined here. “Everything Goes My Way” follows with another more successful slice of non-offensive rock. The restraint works here, and there is some quite tasteful interplay in the rhythm section. This is their modern psyche tune, for sure. “Waterwheel” is another stronger, though antiseptic track.

And yet, the inconsistencies are too great to reconcile in the end. I can understand wanting to make one’s music more inviting, but one must be wary of a gingerbread house, as Hansel and Gretel would warn you. I’m always more willing to forgive weepier music, once I’ve been proven it can take me places. Don’t blame Aloha, blame me. I went into this under false pretenses. I thought Aloha was god’s gift to prog-rock, some nerds with soul, but instead it is clear that Tony Cavallario is another bed-wetting songsmith, and he’s got some friends with some neat-o and cerebral arrangement tricks. It’s 1997 all over again.

Links: Aloha - Polyvinyl

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