Growing up can be incredibly difficult for those of a more sensitive persuasion. Not only do you have to contend with leaving behind the relative safety and security of childhood and adolescence to embrace the responsibilities and uncertainties that come with impending adulthood, but also convincingly establish yourself as someone capable of being taken seriously and worth further consideration, either personally or professionally. To do so, the trappings of youth generally have to be shed in favor of more adult-oriented fare in hopes of passing for something we may not find to be an entirely accurate reflection of our true selves.
Holding onto this naiveté has been the hallmark of twee since its inception and popularization during the rise of indie pop in the 1980s. The intervening years have seen innumerable groups adopting the genre’s general aesthetic of preciousness to varying degrees of success. With their self-titled debut, Anglo-Australian group All Darlin’ cast their hat squarely into the ring, putting out a delightful album of heavily twee-indebted pop that rested itself on principle vocalist and songwriter Elizabeth Morris’ lyrics, school-girl vocals, and ukulele.
2012’s Europe continued along the route they’d established on their debut, upping the production level somewhat in the process. In the intervening years between albums, Morris moved to Italy, married and all the while continued to write. This move from post-adolescence to full-on adulthood began cropping up in Morris’ songs on Europe, but is now fully on display with their latest, We Come From the Same Place.
Described as being an album of new beginnings and things drawing to a close, the members of Allo Darlin’ reconnected with producer Simon Trought, who worked on their debut, to recapture some of their initial spark and supplant it with their newer material. Recording largely live to get the best possible, most immediate performance out of each take, the group sought to create a more holistic approach to the recording process rather than layering one track at a time. As the finished product shows, this new approach with old friends proves to be very much in the group’s favor.
Gently careening melodies replete with jangly guitars and, to maintain the twee factor of their first two releases, ukuleles help make opening track “Heartbeat” an immediate hook, drawing the listener in and holding their attention throughout the next forty minutes. The group-recorded immediacy of the more live approach to capturing these songs is immediately apparent not only in the performances themselves, but also in the instinctual interplay between musicians, feeling very much a live performance within a studio setting, hesitant endings and all.
“Kings and Queens” adds a bit of grit to the sound; distorted bass rumbling away beneath the chiming guitars and sing-song chorus, creating a sound that shows Allo Darlin’ to be growing up both lyrically and in the their music, moving away from the straight ahead twee of their earlier albums in favor of a tougher, more worldly sound that touches on all the best attributes of indie pop past and present. It is here and throughout the album’s progression that one begins to get the sense of the maturation process beginning to take hold in the group’s sound, leaving behind the more precious notions associated with twee in favor of a more grown up sound.
There’s a maturation in the vocal presence of Australian songwriter Elizabeth Morris as well. Where previous outings placed the emphasis squarely on the more twee elements of the group’s sound, playing to clichéd notions of how that particular style of indie pop should sound, We Come From the Same Place displays a great deal of sonic and lyric growth, a newfound confidence in their abilities to craft near-perfect indie pop gems as well as take more sonic risks throughout. The title track carries with it a perfect mixture of sadness and longing set against an up-tempo backing that allows for a rare outro guitar solo while the rhythm section motors along at pace, allowing the titular lyric to sink in fully, its gravity slowing taking hold with the listener.
Exploring more intricate instrumental arrangements, “Angela” features several stop-starts and unison hits, as well as a lovely guitar line that perfectly compliments Morris’ vocal melody. This elevated approach to song craft shows the group maturing at a rapid rate, having here crafted yet another in a line of exemplary indie pop albums.
“History Lessons” is a lyrically dense tale of heartbreak and lost love, a complex relationship rendered in miniature. It’s this kind of attention to minute detail and immediately relatable subject matter that helps transcend the deeply personal nature of the song’s lyrics and creates something far more universally accessible; the hallmark of an exceptional songwriter and band truly coming into its own. Despite the song’s hardships, its triumphant outro affords hope to those without, its gentle melancholy culminating in quiet optimism.
A quick, outwardly aggressive follow up comes raging out of the gate in the form of “Half Hear Necklace”, its driving power pop, the likes of which rarely makes such an impactful and successful appearance on an album like this. As with nearly every other track on We Come From the Same Place, “Half Heart Necklace” carries with it an assured level of confidence that seeks to put the navel-gazing of twee behind, fully engaging itself with the listener, making deliberate eye contact throughout and showing signs of the sloughing off of more adolescent predilections in favor of a more adult-oriented worldview.
Should Allo Darlin’ continue growing by such leaps and bounds, by their next release they should leave us with a note-perfect classic. Not that they haven’t already done so with We Come From the Same Place, but the rapid growth from their self-titled debut in 2010 through this year’s masterpiece makes a strong case for Allo Darlin’s status as one of the best indie pop bands working today, having inherited the mantle of older stalwarts of the scene Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. All tracks short and sweet, We Come From the Same Place is an exceptional release from a band to watch and who hold great promise.
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