Allo Darlin – Europe

Allo Darlin – Europe

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Well, I was afraid this might happen.

Everyone has to grow up sometime. It’s true, I just didn’t want it to be so soon. But Allo Darlin’, a band whose name is embarrassingly indicative of its sweet brand of twee pop, on its sophomore LP has started to make that marginal turn towards something more (sigh) serious.

But all is not drug abuse and screaming at ex-lovers in the rain. At their core, Allo Darlin’ — fronted by the spunky but honeyed voice of Elizabeth Morris — is a twee pop band who owe more to The Go-Betweens and The Lemonheads than The Field Mice. Morris is the star player, an irresistible siren who lulls you in with her good intentions and her ADORABLE accent. (Crush alert, you caught me.) Lyrically, she’s often reminiscing about nostalgic love and friendship (“It’s been a long time/ since I’ve seen all my old friends/ but I really love all my new friends”), wanderlust (“how do you feel about Europe?”), or just making wry observations (“they didn’t put a man on the moon/ we just needed someon to prove all this floating’s worth doing”). She’s unashamed to name-check other bands (The Silver Jews, The Motels) and has no regrets about penning tunes with her heart squarely on her sleeve. It’s part of what makes Allo Darlin’ such a comfortable bet in a digital era of bleeps, bits and dark irony. Morris and company deal in the currency of real emotions; they are messy and silly and sound corny as shit on paper, but they pump heavily through our bodies, defining our daily routines.

The same winning pop formula is applied here on Europe as on the band’s first self-titled LP. There’s still the ringing guitars, the ragtag drums, the frantic ukulele strums and Morris’s knack for writing a crafty melody that segues into an even craftier melody by song’s end. But Allo Darlin’ found the polish bucket and shined the shit out of their songs. Whereas before there was a whole pile of frantic energy that might lead the songs into God-knows-where, now you can almost predict where they’re headed. There are no inadvertent tempo shifts, no muddled guitar tones — just a clear, assured voice and band honed by months on the road and hours of rehearsal time.

Which is all fine, if this is your introduction to Allo Darlin’. You won’t detect these idiosyncrasies and will likely find a dreamy batch of tunes to pass off to your college friends. But despite album openers “Neil Armstrong” and “Capricornia” perfectly acceptable catchiness and pop formula goodness, they lack the stunning immediacy of later tracks and nearly all of the band’s previous tunes. Maybe it’s just a case of getting off on the wrong foot, because by the time “Europe” arrives, some of that old good-time feeling is back and there’s a little more spring in the song’s step, a little more unpredictability. “Some People Say” and “Tallulah” are both sugary solo ukulele numbers where Morris is the star and her songwriting takes center stage. Her voice is a dream, especially on the more fragile, reverb-touched “Tallulah,” compared to the exuberance of “Northern Lights” and “The Letter” — two tracks where all of the pieces fall into perfect place: the voice, the tunes and the band.

It’s hard not to hear an undercurrent of regret in “Still Young,” the best of the batch here on Europe. It’s more reminiscent of the finest boy-girl-love tracks from their debut (e.g., “Dreaming,” “Kiss Your Lips”). “We’re still young,” Morris cries as the song makes its triumphant exit. Yes, yes, you are, kids. Maybe next time we won’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Because us kids know, when you get older your heart dies. And there’s a big bad cynical world waiting out there to turn your dreams into dust. It wouldn’t hurt to hold onto them for longer than two albums.


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