Halloween, Alaska "All Night The Calls Came In"
Minneapolis quartet Halloween, Alaska have, over the course of five releases, now developed from an experimental pop studio project, finally morphing now into a full-blooded, proper rock band. With teeth.
Deliberately rewiring their whole outlook and also their previous recording methods for this album, the majority of ‘All Night...’ was recorded live in the studio as a band. Singer/keyboardist James Diers laces these songs with rich melodies at every turn, and beguiling, idiosyncratic lyrics; his dissonant clipped poetry, and vocalised questionnaires, a kind of imaginative, occasionally plain odd modern emotional shorthand. Dance By Accident’s mystifying chorus of “Gonna transcribe a recipe from nothing juice, gonna try to digitise the trophy case..” for example.
While some of the narration may be oblique , they are encased in startling and powerful sonic backdrops, often full of surprise and wonder. ‘Analogue’ is both their most outwardly innovative and sonically powerful pop song; The drums pound, morphing into, in turn, skittering drum & bass patterns, indie-disco, and flailing hard-rock. It slyly shape-shifts like an art-rock Termintor, until minutes later Diers is caught in a vortex of swelling feedback and cymbals pondering in circles “Does this happen to everyone...often, rarely or not at all”.
Elsewhere ‘Empire Waist’ has the slightly wonky feel, and restraint of a Wilco pop song, and the magnificent ‘Dance by Accident’s synths, taught guitars and grooves give it an '80s overcoat, even down to Diers Daryl Hall-like vocals. ‘The Jealous Ones’ again perfectly mixes the electronic atmospheres with swells of vibrant melancholic rock, and one of the album’s finest melodies.
One resists labelling this strange, but compelling music as ‘experimental’, as everything here sounds natural, concise, planned and purposeful. The sudden switches in rhythm, key and wonderfully unexpected snatches of melody will be familiar however to anyone with a love of Wilco or The Walkmen, both of whom they share a passing resemblance to at times.
HA have devised this album as a complete picture, rather than just a bunch of, admittedly excellent, tracks. As such its rises and dips in mood and sonic texture are entirely well thought out and satisfying. Occasionally jaw-droppingly thrilling. HA are touring the UK with the equally wonderful Anna Calvi later this year, so there’s no excuse for not becoming acquainted.