The music and film industry share a lot in common when it comes to releasing new material. Movie trailers often contain the best scenes in order to grab viewers’ attention and get them to flock to theaters. Labels and publicists will release one or two songs in advance of the album launch, and the songs tend to be the cream of the crop. More often than not, the film or record will leave us feeling a bit empty, even cheated that the final product didn’t deliver on its promise. Then there are the unexpected surprises. A record that flies under the radar, but its impact is immediate. A record that the majority have ignored, and you’re left wondering, “Why?” Alyeska‘s EP, Crush, elicits such a reaction.
Started by Montana native-turned-Los Angeles resident Alaska Reid, Alyeska’s debut is a marvel. At its peak – and there are plenty – the stories reflect the intimacy, fearlessness, and captivation of Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen. Musically, the record is bold and full of youthful vigor. The anthemic climaxes are bone-chilling, yet a calm and easiness still linger throughout these moments. This approach is reminiscent of two other hidden gems, Violent Mae and Belle Mare, whose brooding and cinematic indie-rock have blown us away time and time again.
The opener, “Ribs And Greens”, is a terrific introduction to Alyeska’s sound. It is foreboding yet energetic, intimate yet intoxicating. However, “Sister Buckskin” is the one song that epitomizes the band’s searing beauty. The reverb-drenched guitars and heart-pounding rhythms create an uplifting atmosphere before building into its blistering finale. Reid’s vocals, however, are the reasons for the song’s exhilaration. As my friend and colleague Hollie Daugherty described, Reid’s voice is like suede – soft yet strong with a warm texture – taking this song about searching for a kindred spirit to dreamy heights.
Her honeyed vocals astound on “Honest”, an introspective song that is filled with memory, remorse, and jubilation. The crystalline guitars and orchestral-like percussion are delirious and turn this ballad into a soaring rocker. The approach echoes U2’s underrated masterpiece, “Bad”. On “Lilacs”, Reid channels Debbie Harry, giving the track an unsuspecting sultriness, showcasing another side to her dynamic vocals. Similarly lustful is “Tilt-A-Whirl”, as Reid teases us with her words and voice. The song, though, is playful and a tongue-in-cheek story about infatuation.
The companion pieces, “Motel State Of Mind” and “Ginger Ale”, are the record’s emotional centerpieces. The former is a heartbreaking, ’80s-inspired number. “Meet me for a minute, and I’ll try not to cry”, shutters Reid as the guitars and drums escalate around her aching voice. On “Ginger Ale”, the song, like the beverage, starts off smoothly before ending with fiery burst. Reid sings in a whisper, “Oh please, oh please, come back to this hotel room and talk to me.” The desperation captured in the track is masterful, akin to Van Etten’s brilliant song, “Your Love Is Killing Me”.
And like Van Etten, Olsen, and many others, Alyeska’s popularity will build over time. Crush isn’t a record meant for radio play; it is a record meant to bowl over its listener and stick with him for days. Eventually, more people will discover the band, as word spreads about the monumental EP they have released. In the process, they will be left pondering, “Why didn’t I hear about them before?”
Crush is out now and self-released by the band. Purchase it on iTunes.
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