Every so often, an album comes along that practically has scenes from ‘tween dramas accompanying each song. Champagne Downtown, on the other hand, really should but doesn’t. Perhaps this is yet another shortcoming for a derivative album that overreachs, keeps homogenous music throughout, and fills each song with lyrics more jejune than the last. Halloween, Alaska evokes no other band so much as a slowed-down and overly precious version of Death Cab for Cutie, as vocalist James Diers mimics Ben Gibbard’s delivery, singing as if every line is a somber gem. Most of the lines aren’t. “The hot pink sun / Makes the hot pink sunlight” goes one couplet in the opening song, “Hot Pink.
Aside from lyrics more puerile than Death Cab’s, Halloween, Alaska also doesn’t have it together musically. Most of the songs use the same beats and remain that song’s driving force in most cases. This is unfortunate because the music and lyrics end up being disjointed throughout. Further, the musical innovations attempted are never fully realized. Synth sweeps come in, only to vanish after a few seconds, and return to the same beats. The same can be said for guitar solos and everything else that’s used to break up the monotony of the album. The spoken female voice-over on the title track and the quieted vocals on the final song, “Knights of Columbus,” are nice, but it’s a case of too little, too late. Ultimately, Champagne Downtown runs out of surprises—something the band accuses America of in the opening line of the album.
// Notes from the Road
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