James Ross Kiefer
The Los Angeles based dream pop Alyeska shows that they aren’t afraid to mix a smooth, lyrical vocals with crushingly distorted moments reminiscent of 90’s indie rock. On their latest EP ‘Crush,’ the band creates a delicate balance between gentle and abrasive, in a surprisingly compelling manner.
Alyeska is a three piece band composed of Alaska Reid on lead vocals and guitar, with Ben Spear on drums and Enzo Scardapane on bass. The band was formed out of Reid’s transition from Montana to Los Angeles, and besides a few singles that the band has released over the past two years, ‘Crush’ is the band’s debut album. ‘Crush’ also holds the distinction of being the last albums to come out of famed New York recording studio The Magic Shop. Before closing it’s doors, the studio had recorded David Bowie’s last album ‘Blackstar.’ Other notable musicians to record there include Sonic Youth, Lou Reed and The Rolling Stones.
‘Crush’ starts with starts off with a dreamy little number. ‘Ribs and Greens’ has Reid sounding rather reserved on vocals. The guitar work in the verse feels rather aloof, partly because of the sparse drumming. Only when the chorus happens are you finally given something to really latch onto musically, and the fuzzed out guitar break into the bridge is rather exciting. After some short belting by Reid the song moves into a heavy jam, but like the rest of the song it doesn’t really last long enough for you to enjoy it.
One of the premier singles off the EP is ‘Tilt-A-Whirl.’ The song is playful and flirty, and captures a kind of young innocence about affection. The dancey verse is juxtaposed by an almost anthemic chorus, and the fuzzy guitars return for this track.
Reid discussed the origins of this song in an interview with Stereogum, ‘“Tilt-A-Whirl’ is an ode to the small county fair in my town. My friends and I would look forward to going every year, we’d see boys we had crushes on, and scream about the creepy carnies or the way your feet turned black with dirt in your yellow flip flops. We would giggle uncomfortably at the porno posters the carnies hung in their booths and the rotting state of their teeth. And then there were the rides – The Zipper, The Hurricane and my favorite, the Tilt-A-Whirl.”
Another single from album, ‘Sister Buckskin’ maintains the playfulness and energy from the previous track. Although a bit more lively in terms of instrumentation, the verse does have a bit of a somber feel to it. ‘Motel State of Mind’ takes any momentum from any of the previous tracks and squashes it. The track softly plods along, with a slow and melodic bassline peeking out of the mix. The chorus explodes into rapid drumwork, the guitars kick in for a moment on a distorted tremolo, and then quickly die out. The later half of the song we hear a more present guitar sound. Reid described this track as her attempt to rip off The Replacements.
‘Ginger Ale’ has a slow opening that turns into a flurry guitar hooks and broken statements by Reid. The shortest song on the album, this song chooses to focus more on melody rather than lyrics. Reid repeats “Just talk to me, talk to me” as the song builds, making it feel frantic and nonsensical. It feels very introspective and private throughout.
The murky and effect laden track ‘Lilacs’ seems like it could have been ripped off an early Dinosaur Jr. album. The wonky dual guitar melody in the chorus, featuring one relatively clean and another guitar going through a wah pedal, has a lullaby effect, which is later nulled out by another explosion of sound.
‘Honest,’ the final song of the album, is a return to the dream pop aesthetic that Alyeska has championed through the entire EP. Transitioning from small and personal moments, to big and demanding transitions, Reid barely even sings on this track. “Honest” is a track that allows it’s sheer contrasts to lure in the listener. It dies out in a beautiful manner.
‘Crush’ is a fantastic debut effort from Alyeska. The laid back pacing of the album makes it for an easy listen, all around 30 minutes in total. Constantly shifting from vulnerable to powerful manages to stay fresh through the entire album. It feels like Alyeska is almost teasing the listener by stunting each moment, making us want a phrase to last longer, as the song gently fades.
I’ll definitely be looking forward to Alyeska’s next release.