[Lemon Merchant Records (2010)]
Indie-rockers Aloud introduce themselves to you gradually on this record: The title track starts with Henry Beguiristain’s vocals against an electric piano; two lines in, Jen de la Osa joins him on harmony vocals. Guitars and more keyboards come in, creating a heavy, lush minor key stomp that hits another level when the drums finally kick in on the third verse. This is all done by two people.
Exile covers an impressive breadth of indie rock styles: there are minor key pounders like “Exile” (and its companion piece “Exile in the Night”), tinkly atmospherics on “Broken Hearts,” and the straight-ahead pop rock of tracks like “Counterfiet Star.” The true standout is the beautiful and uplifting “Darkest Days.”
A loss is just a debt
that’s left unpaid.
Soon one day,
it’ll all be gone.
It’s a physical world
and a race against time never won.
Without love, love, love,
Where would we be, my love?
Unarmed against the darkest days to come?
Lyrically, this is what you’ll find throughout: a little gloom, a little sunlight, and a lot of heart. It’s an album that breathes, builds, and surprises.
The “gradual introduction” also happens to describe how I consumed the album over the last few months (it was released all the way back in October). It spend some time in the CD player, where I was initially impressed, but even though it was a good indie rock record, it didn’t come across as unique, and it coincidentally went into my CD player right after The Wrens’ The Meadowlands, a recording that Exile, full of layered sounds and near-constant harmonies, has a lot in common with. Aloud was competing for mental space with another band whose work was more forcefully and immediately impressive. When I picked up Exile again recently I didn’t remember much about it at first.
Some artists can make an immediate, lasting impression. Exile isn’t like that. But after a few more spins, I can say confidently that it will be one of the records I reach for when I’m craving a dose of indie rock. This puts them squarely in another camp: those artists who can build a loyal cult following. Exile may require some close listening, but the reward is outstanding depth and complexity.
—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)