I’m sorry if this is too mainstream for you rough underground men, but I happened to listen to, and possibly enjoy Kaleo’s first album and so here I am boring you again with some highly conventional music. -It’s in my understanding that they’ve previously released a self-titled album in 2013, however it’s barely mentioned on most internet channels, band’s official site included.-
I remember that the opener track of A/B has been surprisingly played by the lousy mainstream radio station my work mate is used to listening to (all day long. I hate him for that). The song No Good, which has also leaded the OST of the unsuccessful HBO’s TV series Vinyl, brought in my workshop a powerful breath of vintage-like rock’n’roll. That was the day the Icelandic Kaleo entered my radar. And they did it in the most badass possible way, that is with a full-power number, running between blues and ‘70s rock with screaming guitars and loud vocals.
Despite the stimulating starter, the second track, Way Down We Go, completely changes the mood. The references to the canonical indie pop/rock style are even too prominent here, possibly clashing with the whole album atmosphere too. The subsequent Broken Bones is not a big victory either. But the smoothness unexpectedly stops, and actually a glorious ride starts from track 4 -which lasts till the last song. In fact, from now on, all the songs we encounter are all equally beautiful, you pay particular attention to Hot Blood, Automobile with its southern rock appeal and the spectacular All The Pretty Girls. The latter totally shares the throne of goodness with No Good, still it takes opposite directions being a soft, tender ballad talking about a guy who has all the girls, and does keep them for himself…and “oh, he really doesn’t share”.
This song spins like a folkish, indie-rock piece with haunting yet simple guitar riffs adorning a tiny melody. The major pitfall resides in the style of singer Jökull Júlíusson, who perfectly but not so pleasantly performs a falsetto for most of the tune playing time. It wouldn’t normally be a downside per se, not until your hear him singing with normal voices on the same track and eventually you’ll see why I called it a pitfall. After all, this track is so much pretty that it still remains my favourite out of A/B.
Very interesting is the melancholic Vor í Vaglaskógi, the only one exposing Icelandic lyrics. Even with a very simple arrangement -just guitar, voice, bass and small parts of drum and cello-, it’s touching and definitely against the grain in regards of the entire album (in a good way).
Ultimately, A/B wraps up quiet finely with Save Yourself and I Can’t Go On Without You. While the first doesn’t particularly stand out, it also seems a piece of collage of parts taken from the other tracks of the album, the latter hits the spot instead, showing a good crescendo of blues-infused moments.
Kaleo’s debut may not be the greatest, the best nor the album that will stand the test of time for decades to come. I’d reprove them (the men from across the mixing board, not the band) to have imprinted a very tangible commercial style, even if you shouldn’t want to do that while dealing with such a genre. Still, A/B sounds fresh enough and haunting to drawn any “alert listener” right to it.
At this point we can only wait to see what this glimpse of success will bring into these handsome Icelandic guys’ future.