‘All We Are’ blends in
John Darr | Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Maybe I’m insane, but I have a lot of déjà vu moments in my dreams. When I wake up from a particularly confusing one, I’ll spend the first minutes of consciousness trying to sort it all out. Did I have a dream similar to the one I just had? Had something in my dream already occured in my ‘real life?’ Or, being in the weird dreamspace mentality, had I mistakenly recognized something that I had never in fact seen? Most times, there are simply no ways of knowing. And sometimes, it will come to me in an intense moment of revelation, shocking my system before I realize how trivial or meaningless the actual moment was.
The eponymous debut album of “All We Are” is one such dream: full to the brim with familiar indie-rock sounds without recognizable sources. Snippets of the xx, Bombay Bicycle Club, Blood Orange, Alt-J and a hundred other groups float rather indistinguishably through the mix. Crisp guitar lines, creamy bass and airy female-male harmonies float over crystal-clear drums. Precise production fills the sound spectrum with well-managed highs and lows. The hip, clean sound of the record stays within very accessible bounds, never attempting to challenge or even grab the listener. Instead, “All We Are” is a record that fills the space it inhabits very well but never exerts command over it. It’s enjoyable and versatile yet completely forgettable.
Predictably enough, “All We Are” is at its best when it’s at its catchiest. Singles “Stone” and “Keep Me Alive” are easily two steps ahead of the album’s other tracks. A floating Tycho-esque guitar line anchors “Stone,” propelling the track through a high-reverb cavern of easy vocal melodies. Ultimately, the song crescendos into an airy groove punctuated with glowing electric guitar notes, transcending the record’s general pleasantness.
“Keep Me Alive” boasts perhaps the record’s best chorus. More importantly, it stretches the band’s boundaries beyond the limitations that the rest of their record suggests. The drums and distorted guitar manage to break through the otherwise smooth production style. A strong vocal performance that recalls Florence and the Machine complements these rough edges beautifully.
However, the rest of the record simply resigns to being pleasant indie music. The intro to the album, a loop of soft mishmash lo-fi piano and bleepy bloops, is far from attention-grabbing. Following track, “Ebb/Flow,” has at its heart a painfully subdued distorted bass synthesizer — think Alt-J’s “Fitzpleasure” declawed. “Feel Safe” has a single notably ingredient — a rising “want you-u!” in the background of the chorus — that shares space with a relatively uninspiring tropical groove.
“All We Are” is a record that plays its subject matter far too safely. It’s clear that the young band has managed to find a signature sound, but that sound doesn’t stand out against the huge number of electronic-tinged indie bands that flood today’s music scene. However, there are several moments on the record that hint at a much brighter, more exciting future for All We Are. The aforementioned “Keep Me Alive” and “Stone” as well as the relentlessly energetic and propulsive “Honey” push the group’s boundaries and make for very satisfying indie grooves. If All We Are continues in the direction of energy and experimentation, they’ll be living the dream very soon indeed.
If you like: Blood Orange, Bombay Bicycle Club
Best Tracks: “Stone,” “Honey,” “Keep Me Alive”