Alkari, Blackout Falls
I’ll freely admit that I’m addicted to music; it’s the truth, and hell, I could definitely be addicted to worse. It’s not all music that gets me, though, but those certain special moments, those songs or albums where it all just clicks somehow, it all fits together like it was made to, like there’s literally no other way it could sound. That’s what I’m looking for when I’m listening to a band or a song, really, for that feeling like, “yes, this is right; this is the way this should be.” Everything is in its right place.
It should probably go without saying that I’m generally over the moon when I hear something that fits together that way — it’s a relatively rare thing. And that’s the way Blackout Falls, the long-anticipated (by me, anyway) full-length from Alkari, hits me. There’s not a note out of place, no unnecessary fill or jarring chord that just doesn’t fit. That’s a damned impressive thing, honestly, especially since I had some gripes about the band’s previous release, 2008′s Kublai Khan EP, that were about that specific thing, where there were some great songs and some songs and sounds that just didn’t fit.
The Alkari guys have no such problems here, however. Blackout Falls is flat-out great, a lush, perfectly-orchestrated slate of 11 tracks that never outstay their welcome and move just the way they should; frontman/guitarist Mike Beatty’s guitars are distorted just enough, Marc Badillo’s drums thunder and boom like they’re supposed to, the keys drift in and dance along without distracting from the rest of it, the bass (courtesy of Jason Smith, who I should note also writes from time to time for this here Website; just want to get that out there) is busy but never showy, anchoring everything beautifully, and all of it frames Beatty’s voice and lyrics better than it ever has before.
There’s a seriously Brit-rock sound going on here, moreso than on the band’s previous stuff, and hey, I’m good with that, even if I do miss The Replacements-y stuff a teeny bit. I find myself thinking of Snow Patrol and Doves, in particular, in part because both bands are ferocious and thoughtful at the same time; Alkari’s got that, as well, and it’s a great, great thing. The songs are serious and smart without being obscure, personal and heartfelt without being sappy, and anthemic as all hell. On top of the Brit-rock thing, I keep finding myself thinking of Sebadoh, as well, when listening to this album — some of these tracks (“The Picking,” in particular) have that low-key-yet-intense feel to ‘em that the best of Lou Barlow’s songs always seem(ed) to have.
I’m honestly having a hard time picking out a high point — never a bad problem to have — because damn, there’re a lot of excellent moments here. Like, say, the roaring, fist-in-the-air, Springsteen-meets-Hüsker Dü climax of “Onward Upward,” which sounds like it was specifically designed to get an arena full of people up on their feet, going apeshit as the band explodes. Or the Death Cab-esque intro bit to “Dilemma,” with those gorgeous, gorgeous keys stepping delicately over Beatty’s soft, apprehensive vocals before the blocky, solid-sounding guitars come barreling in.
“Waverunner” is a particularly neat song, all sweet, poignant nostalgia as Beatty looks back at all those days in his youth spent skimming across the lakes of Texas (I’m assuming) on the eponymous machine. It’s confident and warm, a glimpse into the workings of the guy’s soul through his childhood memories, and that’s something that’s supremely difficult to pull off (trust me on that one; I’ve heard a lot of failed attempts).
Then there’s “Crazy Truck,” which practically spits energy as it propels you forward, blazing with a righteous fire and those badass-sounding guitars. It’s an epic, driving track, thoughtful but still fiery, with a few points that bring to mind Primal Scream (think “Shoot Speed Kill Light,” in particular) or The Verve in all their high-flying glory. The guitars churn and chime, merging down-on-the-ground indie-rock with Spiritualized-ish spacerock to make something that comes closer to The Secret Machines than anything else I can think of.
And holy fuck, is it good, all of it. The first time I listened to Blackout Falls, I had to go back and listen again immediately after, just to make sure I wasn’t imagining things, but yep, there it is. I know it’s early yet, but hell, I’m going to call it anyway: welcome to one of the best things you’re likely to hear all year.