WRITTEN BY: Jessica Gambino
After three busy years since 2016’s Calico Review, the Allah-Las finally return with their fourth album, LAHS. It’s almost impossible to read an article about the Allah-Las without seeing comparisons of the band’s sound to the 1960’s. These descriptions are correct in their comparisons, as the Allah-Las do have a hazy, vintage vibe to their music that just radiates west coast warmth. Yet, it is also important to recognize the other unique qualities of the Allah-Las’ sound that make them much more than just another “1960’s-sounding” band.
Allah-Las is a quartet comprised of Miles Michaud, Spencer Dunham, Pedrum Siadatian, and Matthew Correia. The four formed their band after working together at Amoeba Records during their college days, where they had plenty of time to soak up all the different music that was readily available to them. As if that fact isn’t enough evidence of the group’s passion for music, they also started their own podcast called “Reverberation Radio”, where they continue to release new playlists every Wednesday.
In addition to keeping up with the weekly podcasts, the band has been busy touring all over the world, recording and writing new music, and contributing to the collaborative surf film between Mexican Summer and Pilgrim Surf + Supply, Self Discovery for Social Survival. With more world experience and countless sources of inspiration under their belt, the band finally returned with the release of LAHS on October 11th.
Despite the lack of promotion that went into the release of LAHS, excited fans were kept satisfied with the release of three singles: “In The Air,” “Polar Onion,” and “Prazer Em Te Conhecer”. These singles, along with their music videos, debuted in the months leading up to the album’s release. Just from the first listen to these three tracks, it was clear that the band was onto something new and exciting with this album.
Of course, there are elements to these three singles that hold true to the signature Allah-Las sound: the jangly guitars, the mellow background vocals, the guitar licks that are specifically panned to either side that support the main melody, the easygoing rhythm… these are all classic characteristics of the Allah-Las that give way for the 1960s comparisons. Beyond these classic elements, though, is the addition of a completely new dimension in their music. The introduction of new guitar tones, new rhythms, new instruments, and even new languages, mark this album as a transformative point for the band.
The first track, “Holding Pattern” is an appropriate album opener, as the song feels like a groggy morning at sea. Also present in this track is one of the many instances on this album that there is a creative use of delay. If “Holding Pattern” is the feeling of a groggy morning, the next track, “Keeping Dry” is the feeling after drinking your morning coffee. The wailing guitars seem to have a personality of their own, and provide a nice contrast to the disco/funk-inspired drum beat — something new for Allah-Las, but something that meshes so incredibly well with their style.
“In The Air” features another creative use of delay, this time mixed with a sloshy, dark-sounding tone that remains as the central focus of the tune. “Prazer En Te Conhecer” is sung entirely in Portugese, and likely came about from the band’s global influences and inspirations. It is one of the catchier tracks on the album, and features a memorable slide guitar riff that evokes a George Harrison feel.
The next two tracks, “Roco Ono” and “Star”, are two of the highlights of the album (especially for lovers of funk and soul). “Roco Ono” begins with what sounds like the intro of a Hendrix jam, then gets more disco as the rest of the band comes in. As a sucker for instrumentals, this track really stood out for its phasey guitar, driving bass line, and tight disco groove. “Star” is another highlight. The haunting, hypnotic feel of the song is somewhat reminiscent of Air’s, “Another Day” from their 2004 album, Talkie Walkie. It seems unusual to compare the psych garage rock that Allah-Las is known for to the electronic synth pop of the French duo, Air… but let’s just say that if Air’s music and Allah-Las’ music were to have a child in some sonic universe, there’s no doubt that it would sound exactly like this song.
“Royal Blues” gives a nod to the global influences that have surely impacted the conception of this album by featuring a spoken Japanese part during the chorus. “Electricity” is carried by the complex percussion and has a bit of a bossa nova feel. The percussion on this track suggests that the band took their time creating more complex rhythms with this album, and it certainly worked out well for them. The gloomy, “On Our Way” provides that nostalgic desert feel that Allah-Las has just absolutely perfected.
Ultimately, LAHS is a reminder of how refreshing it is to exercise minimalism in music techniques — which certainly is not for everyone in an era where overly produced tracks are all the rave. Yet, there eventually comes a time where you want to wind down and relax… and that’s where Allah-Las’ music acts as a sanctuary, in which you can slow down and appreciate the warmth and simplicity of a fresh groove. LAHS showcases the band’s expansion of their sound. By honing in on their tones, developing more complex rhythms, pulling bits from other genres, and making an effective use of space, the band succeeds in creating a mysterious, dreamy mood that is all their own.
- Holding Pattern
- Keeping Dry
- In The Air
- Prazer Em Te Conhecer
- Roco Ono
- Royal Blues
- Light Yearly
- Polar Onion
- On Our Way
Follow writer Jessica Gambino on Instagram @jessgambino